To explore all of the different stories along the migration trail, watch the videos on our interactive map.
Meeting Javed’s family felt like getting to the source of a wound. Sitting in the sparse courtyard of her relative’s home, Javed’s mother spoke over the noise of a hand pump, the only source of water for ten families. We were on the outskirts of a Taliban stronghold, where boys are not allowed smartphones and girls are banned from schools once they hit puberty.
It took nearly two years to unite Javed’s mothers – his biological mother in Afghanistan, Zarmeena Begham (a pseudonym), who he had to leave at the age of 15, and his adopted mother in Norway, Gro Dregelid, who took in the newly arrived teenager as he sought asylum in her country.
Javed entered Norway in 2016 after trekking across six borders from his homeland. He was 15 years old and had already seen his brother murdered. Riddled with gunshot wounds, the emaciated child knocked on the doors of one of the world’s wealthiest countries and walked into Gro’s life.
Despite living on different sides of the world, Gro and Zarmeena became bound to each other through Javed.
A video call that took place during my visit to Zarmeena in November 2020 was her first instance of seeing Gro. It was also one of the few times that Zarmeena had used a smartphone. She held the device gingerly, both hands adorned by a deep maroon henna. The bangles on her wrists clinked against the screen as we waited for the call.
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