26 April 2009 - Five thousand families have lived across Afghanistan for decades, but none of them have Afghan citizenship. Among several minorities in Afghanistan, a forgotten and isolated minority is the Jogi tribe.
Jogies have Uzbek and Tajik origins and many crossed the border from Bukhara in Uzbekistan during the period of the Soviet Union to seek asylum in the northern parts of Afghanistan.
A recent study by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the living conditions and status of this minority has been conducted in Mazar-i-Sharif. Assisting stateless people is a part of UNHCR’s mandate across the world.
“As human beings they should be given an identity, social protection and they need to be given chances to develop and live like others in the community,” said Gul Aqa Adel, a UNHCR official who initiated this study.
Jogies live in difficult conditions under tents and are forced to move from place to place. Their lack of Afghan identity deprives them from access to schools, employment, receiving assistance from government and many international aid organisations.
They cannot buy or rent a house because of their lack of an identity card – so they live in isolated locations around Mazar-i-Sharif.
“People don’t take us for labour – they think we are dirty and dangerous, I don’t know why. We are the most vulnerable people,” said Kakul, a Jogi man while he was receiving an assistance package.
Jogi men and women search for work, but mostly to no avail. Jogi women are often fortune-tellers and beggars. Many of them offer fortune-telling around the blue mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Little Jogi girls learn begging and fortune-telling from their mothers at very small age –
an age when they should be school. Their pleading eyes look deep into people while they are begging for some money or food.
Assistance packages were recently distributed to 126 Jogi families by the Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations. Each family package provided by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) included two quilts, three jackets, three blankets, three pairs of shoes and three pairs of socks. UNHCR distributed plastic sheets for each family and the Department of Returnees and Repatriation in Balkh provided soap.
UNHCR is now committed to help Jogies get proper national identification. This will help them send their children to school and Jogi men and women will be able to get official jobs.
By Sayed Barez, UNAMA