New skills for a new home

After leaving Afghanistan, Ali, Mohammad, Salman* and their fellow Afghan refugees are learning how to make a living in Iran. Putting their old life and belongings behind them, their major challenge now is taking care of their families’ needs.

These 17 young Afghan men all shared the same challenging journey of leaving Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021 to seek refuge in Iran. They all have different stories and backgrounds, from lecturing at a university to working as senior provincial officials.

Right now, they live in the Torbat-e-Jam settlement in Razavi Khorasan province, north-eastern Iran. Iran is among the preferred destinations for Afghan refugees**, partly because of cultural and language similarities. Yet many challenges remain.

Apprentices studying at a construction site. Photo: NRC

Struggling to make ends meet

One of the main challenges is the limited employment opportunities and the need to gain new professional skills to take advantage of these opportunities.

“Ali* had to give all his money to pay for healthcare for his wife back in Afghanistan,” shares Ms Jaami, the construction trainer teaching Ali and his friends. Ali and his wife are both educated, and after August 2021, they fled Afghanistan fearing for their safety.

Now, Ali works at a bakery in the settlement, and makes around 60,000,000 Iranian rials (approximately 110 euros) a month while working 13-hour shifts. Ali’s salary is barely enough to support his family when expenses and the high rate of inflation are taken into account.

Mohammad* is another settlement resident. After studying journalism, he worked as a mayor for almost a decade in his hometown.

“He loved Afghanistan and dedicated himself to his people. He was attacked and was forced to flee with his family,” says Ms Jaami.

When settling in Torbat-e-Jam, Mohammad wanted to continue to help his fellow countrymen by becoming a member of the local Shura council (the group of Afghans managing the settlement’s internal affairs), but the salary was too low to allow him to support his family. Even though Mohammad found safety, he did not have the skills he needed to make ends meet.

Thanks to the generous support of the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), these Afghan men were able to receive training from Ms Jaami and her team. They learned different construction skills and contributed to providing shelter units in their settlement as part of an apprenticeship experience. Upon completion of their training, they received the equipment they needed to start their own career in this sector, a common job for Afghans in Iran.

“Right now, Ali hopes to get involved in electric and mechanical jobs. He considers this opportunity as a turning point for him as he was really struggling to make ends meet,” shares Ms Jaami with happiness. Now, the men are gaining actual experience in electrics, tiling and mechanics, and hope to have a chance to learn wiring and painting in the future.

Apprentices working at a construction site. Photo: NRC

The last trainee

The class was limited to 16 participants, but the number was increased to 17 to include one special trainee. “Salman* is a person living with a mental disability and has never worked before,” shares their trainer.

“He joined this training with his brothers and ever since has contributed a lot with his friendly and helpful spirit. He is now working with no limitations on different tasks and is also helping his family with their living expenses. I’m so happy that he was also selected to receive this training.”

NRC in Iran

Since 2012, NRC in Iran has been assisting displaced Afghans as well as Iranian host communities. We work to improve protection and access to basic humanitarian services across 11 provinces: Alborz, Tehran, Yazd, South Khorasan, Hormozgan, Kerman, Razavi Khorazan, Qom, Marzaki, Semnan, and Sistan and Baluchestan.

Since mid-2021, NRC has scaled up its work in Iran significantly in connection with recent developments in Afghanistan, while maintaining all existing programmes.

Read more about our work in Iran

* Indicates that name has been changed to respect the individual's wish for anonymity.

** Iran is now hosting 4.5 million Afghan refugees and is considered to be the largest refugee hosting country in the world.

Sign up to our newsletter to read more stories from around the world.