Afghan Qadir Nadery fled his war-torn country with his wife and children. After three months of traveling, the family arrived in Belgium. And only after four applications for asylum they were allowed to stay. Together with Flemish journalist Leo Bormans, Qadir wrote a book about his journey of hope.
Born and raised in a land of war, Qadir’s worldview is not as it should be for a child and young adult. Afghans do not have a word for ‘happiness’; he was left with hope. His parents expressed those hopes in beautiful stories and wishes.
At age 23, Qadir felt he had to contribute positively to his country and left his village for the capital Kabul. He worked in cultural institutions, among others for the French. He was introduced to theatre and concerts, entertainment, something the Taliban had banned. That his work was not safe was demonstrated when the Taliban attacked the cultural center of the French embassy in a suicide attack. Fortunately, Qadir was not present at the time, but 20 people were injured and one person was killed. Everywhere, precious people are dying. Qadir keeps himself afloat by working for the international troops who have come to liberate his country.
Nevertheless, due to his work for international forces and cultural institutions, the threat to Qadir quickly became too strong. Two days after Qadir’s departure, the Taliban invaded his village. Unable to find Qadir, they killed his father and set fire to his house.
Meanwhile, Qadir and his wife wandered with their children through the dusty Afghan wasteland. Their infant son had asthma and was unable to breathe properly due to the dust and died in Qadir’s arms. They buried him in the sand and moved on with their two young daughters. With horses across the mountains and later in a dinghy across the sea.
“Where two lightning bolts meet a diamond is created” – Qadir and Leo
Future in Belgium
After being on the road for three months, Qadir and his family arrive in Belgium. In the village where the asylum center is located, they meet Leo Bormans, researcher, writer, and journalist. Leo and his wife live in the village and establish contact with the refugee Afghan family. Coincidence brought them together and a friendship, strong as a diamond, was born. Qadir told Leo his story; about his origins, his life, and his journey, hoping for a life of freedom. Meanwhile, they follow the asylum procedure but are rejected three times in a row.
Leo and his wife are as surprised by the rejection as Qadir and his family. With some 100 of Qadir’s friends – he had met people quickly thanks to voluntary work – they opposed his deportation. They provide money to rent a house and send Qadir’s children to school. After a fourth interview, Qadir and his family were finally acknowledged and allowed to stay in Belgium.
Intrigued by Qadir’s story, Leo’s writing heart started beating faster. “This story just has to be written down,” he said. Together with Qadir, he spent a year, sometimes day and night, writing the book that tells of the refuge. They delved into Qadir’s world to write down the story with his (slang) words. From that, the book The Marbles of Qadir was born. A very poignant and beautifully written book in which hope and strength are driving forces, which is emotional and inspiring.