|History and Biodata
Ghulam Jalal is the head of the Center for the Afghan Diaspora, an organization that finds work for Afghans in Russia and preserves their culture and languages. Jalal, a former commander in the Afghan army, left Kabul and arrived in Moscow in 1992 at the onset of the civil war. “I had to leave. The government had collapsed and there was anarchy in the country. I went to Afghanistan recently, but it’s not the country I remember. The old Afghanistan has been destroyed. It only exists in my mind.” Almost twenty years ago, Jalal opened a small school on site, so children growing up in Moscow could learn their parents’ languages, Dari and Pashto. The Center for Afghan Diasporas, a non-governmental organization presides over the 10,000-strong community in and around the Sevastopol. Jala*s center estimates the Russian capital is home to 50,000 Afghans in total.
Moscow is home to a lively but cowed Afghan community, which centers around a cluster of gray tower blocks that make up the Soviet-era Sevastopol Hotel. It is in one of the hotel’s low-ceilinged rooms where an affable, middle-aged Russian woman teaches them. For her students, this is often their only engagement with life outside of the home.
Latifa Mikmuhammad, the vivacious director of the Afghan community’s women’s committee, set up the Russian language program eight months ago. “They’re not just learning Russian, they’re learning a form of independence,” she says. Glasses of pungent green tea and jalebi, swirls of fluorescent orange sweets dripping in sugar, are passed around while she speaks. In the corridor, six hundred years of Afghan kings adorn the walls in sketches and photos.