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Afghan store owner worries about family in home country

  • JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
                                Baburi Ashraf speaks about his home country of Afgha­nistan at his store in Matsudo, Chiba prefecture.

    JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

    Baburi Ashraf speaks about his home country of Afgha­nistan at his store in Matsudo, Chiba prefecture.

TOKYO >> Nearly two months have passed since the Taliban captured Kabul, seizing control of the government, and thousands of Afghans living in Japan are worried about the future of their home country.

“I’m worried about the women who’ve made these products,” said 39-year-old Baburi Ashraf at his store in Matsudo, Chiba prefecture. At the shop, Baburi sells dried fruits including figs and mulberries, lined up for sale in the space.

Baburi moved to Japan in 2009 and attended a Japanese language school. After graduating in 2011, he worked at the Afghan Embassy in Tokyo and later married a Japanese woman, Ai.

Dried fruits are a specialty of Afghanistan, where fruit-growing is popular, and women are primarily responsible for picking and drying them. With so many widows who lost their husbands in the country’s civil war, Baburi began importing the fruits in 2018 and selling them online in the hope of supporting some of those women. In March he opened his storefront in Matsudo.

At the start of the recent turmoil in Afghanistan, Baburi lost contact with 30 farming families with whom he did business. While he later confirmed their safety, “the Taliban regime may place restrictions on women working, like they did before,” he said.

He is even more concerned about his 18-year-old niece, who wants to go to college to become a doctor like her father. But his older brother’s family, including the girl, were driven out of Kabul as the Taliban seized the capital. The family took refuge in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

Under the former Taliban regime, which lasted for five years until 2001, “women were deprived of educational opportunities,” said Baburi. He was a high school student at the time and taught what he learned to his two younger sisters after school.

“What’s going to happen to us in the future?” his niece asked in a video she sent Baburi in late August.

His concern continues to grow.

The Afghan Embassy has received many inquiries from Afghans residing in Japan, who ask whether their visas will be renewed and whether they can bring their families to live with them in Japan. There are about 3,500 Afghans now living in the country.

“If things remain as they are, (Afghanistan) will become a country detached from the common wisdom of the world and closed off,” said Baburi. “I hope it will be a country in which women can study and work as a matter of course, and support themselves.”

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