Name: Jeff Seid
Profile: Afghani refugee (Hazara), born in Iran, detained in Indonesia
Risk of Return: Detainment, torture, death
Advantages: UNHCR certified, motivated and self-taught, great English
Needed: Five people to serve as private sponsors in Canada
Summary: Jeff’s story is a unique one. He was born a refugee, in a hostile country. It was just a matter of time before he was caught and sent back to Afghanistan, where years earlier his parents had fled for their lives.
In Afghanistan, he was detained again, and subjected to kidnapping and torture - and a harrowing escape. Still, his natural spirit and optimism remained strong, even as he knew he had to leave and start a new journey. This is his story.
For a motivated, positive person, Jeff Seid has faced many challenges in his short life. His troubles started before he was born. In 1996, two years before his birth, his parents fled Afghanistan to Tehran, Iran: their families did not agree to the match. His mother’s family threatened the couple with death for bringing shame to their reputation and honour.
And naturally, the Taliban who controlled the region were more than happy to see them go, and enforce the edict. The Ghazni area is known for its rich farmland – and is not-coincidentally the site of an ongoing genocide of the minority Hazara people, who are being forced out by the Taliban through threats, intimidation and murder.
The couple, who belonged to this besieged Hazara minority, married in Iran.
Two years later, on January 1, 1998, Jeff was born. His brothers and two sisters were born in the following years, all refugees in their country of birth.
When Jeff reached school age, he was not allowed to attend class because he lacked the legal documents required by the Iranian government. Instead he was educated by the Literacy Movement, a local NGO.
“Life in Iran was tough. Everywhere we went, the local people harassed us and called us by insulting terms, to let us know we were unwanted strangers in their country.”
Facing discrimination at every turn, the family struggled financially. After six years of study, Jeff, started work as an apprentice at a carpentry shop, starting as a cleaner. The pay was low, but as the eldest son in the family, he was needed as a breadwinner.
On November 25, 2014, Jeff’s luck took a turn for the worse. He was on his way to work when patrolling police stopped him and asked for his legal papers. Unable to produce any, he was caught and transferred to the Askar Abad Camp, a place of refugee detention.
There he was locked up for two nights before being transferred to the Safed Sang e Mashhad Camp, where he stayed for another two nights. On November 30, 2014, he was deported to Islam Qalah, Afghanistan, a town on the border between Iran and Afghanistan, in the province of Herat.
After an eleven-hour bus trip he arrived in the village of Qarah Cha in the Qara Bagh district of Ghazni. He stayed at the house of his father’s friend for December 1 and 2. Soon the whole village knew of his arrival, and the neighbours warned his father’s friend that he should leave as quickly as possible, as his life was at risk.
Detained and Tortured
On December 2, in the darkness of dawn, he ran to safety. He was in a private taxi close to Bazar e Mushki when eight motorcycles surrounded the car and brought it to a standstill. The men wore long beards and turbans, identifying them as members of the Taliban. They made all passengers to get out of the car and began searching them asking them who they were and where they were going.
They let the other passengers go but took Jeff into because of his Iranian accent. They blindfolded him and took him to a house. Upon reaching their hideout, they tortured him and threw him into a room.
“First they kicked me, then they beat me with wood sticks and cables. It was the scariest moment in my life. I was sure I was going to die.”
He was not there alone for long: another captive caught his attention in the darkness. This was an older man dressed in military fatigues, which would have also made him a target of the Taliban. His condition was terrible. His hands were tied behind his back and his eyes were blindfolded. He had been beaten too, with bruised eyes, visible even from under the blindfold.
After a few minutes, the Taliban guards entered and blindfolded Jeff, tying his hands behind his back. They left the room and locked the door. He asked the other captive questions but he said just one thing,
“Let’s escape before the Mowlavi [the Taliban elder] comes.”
Hours later, still blindfolded, scared and facing death, Jeff felt the other captive crawling toward him. He warned him against talking. He silently turned his back to the man. With his own hands still tied up, the other captive began unknotting and untying his hands.
At last, he succeeded in untying his hands. Jeff removed his blindfold and used his free hands to untie his companion’s hands and remove his blindfold.
At the other end of the room, there was a window. It wasn’t big, but big enough to escape through. It was guarded with bars of iron with both ends dipped in an earthen frame. The companion lifted up Jeff, who started digging at the frame. He removed the bars one by one in careful silence and peaked outside. He didn’t know what time it was because it was so dark.
The two young men jumped out the window and ran for their lives, past trees and stones. Scared and out of breath, they reached the highway. There they found a vehicle that was transporting animals. They spoke to the driver, who allowed them to get in.
The driver took them to Ghazni City, where Jeff’s companion went his separate way. From there, Jeff called his father’s friend and let him know what had happened. The friend directed him to go to a hotel, and added that Jeff could not return to Iran, and life in Afghanistan was too dangerous. He had to find another country.
The friend offered to find a smuggler to take him to Indonesia. Following his advice, he went to Shafaq Hotel and hid there for two nights.
On December 5, 2014, he travelled by car to Kabul. The smuggler picked him up and took him to a house, where he stayed for four days. On December 9, he took Jeff to the airport and sent him to Delhi, India where he spent a night in an apartment arranged by the people smuggler.
The next day, he flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he stayed for two days, and then by boat to Pekanbaru Indonesia.
He arrived in Indonesia on December 13, 2014. He was in Pekanbaru for two days. The journey continued as he travelled by car to Jakarta, an epic 38-hour ride to Jalan Jaksa Jakarta. He then travelled by car and train to Bogor with the other passengers. After almost 24 days in Bogor, where he stayed at the ‘Villa SS’, he moved to Makassar City. He was registered with the UNHCR on December 17, 2014.
He reached Makassar on January 7, 2015 and presented himself to the immigration office. He stayed for 48 days outside the immigration office.
“It was such a difficult situation. We had nowhere to sleep, and stayed in the open air, soaked by the rain. For the first few says, we had no food.”
On February 24, 2015, he was sent to a refugee camp in the Gowa region of Indonesia. It was a prison.
“There were more than 200 of us, sharing a single washroom and kitchen. We were held there, unable to go outside.”
He had his interview with the UNHCR on August 1, 2017 and received his refugee status on October 2, 2017. On March 16, 2018, a turn for the better, as he was released into community housing in Makassar, Indonesia.
His New Home
It is a new form of detainment, with more than 250 people living under the same roof, under the same restrictions: no contact with locals (especially females), no leaving the city, no school or work, and strict hours of curfew. The punishment for violating any of these rules is a return to full detainment.
He tries to keep himself active by cooking, learning English and exercising to relieve his physical and mental stress. He dreams of a day he can help others.
“While I’m young and have suffered so much, I still have many dreams and goals in life to achieve. My dream is build a bright future for myself in a sound and secure place. There I can provide help to others, just as kindhearted people helped me."
Jeff has shared his story in the hope of finding sponsors in Canada. He has friends and contacts in Australia who can help with fundraising for the amount needed for private sponsorship. What we are looking for: five caring people in the same Canadian city to be on his settlement team, to welcome him to his new life in Canada.
If you would like to sponsor Jeff – or if you’re just interested in helping to bring him here – please contact their friend Stephen Watt.
Reach out and discover how wonderful it is to privately sponsor a good person to start a new life – with your help – in Canada!