The first Afghan families seeking asylum in Aberdeen were welcomed to the city on Saturday with an array of Scottish music, poetry and songs.
Dozens of residents rallied in front of Marischal College to say a warm “shalom” to those looking for a safe haven from the “horror” scenes in their homeland.
Organised by Aberdeen Multicultural Centre (AMC) with the help of local community groups, the event gathered performers, volunteers and passers-by in “solidarity and love” to the families.
A total of 185 Afghan residents set their feet on the grounds of Aberdeen for the first time, as the crowd “opened the city’s doors and their hearts” for them.
Following a vigorous drumming performance by the Guarana Street Band, the event forged ahead with a speech from one of the first Afghan men to settle in the north-east.
Sultan Feroz, who moved to Aberdeen more than 40 years ago for his university studies, launched the day of “celebrating diversity” with the words “they are one of us”.
His speech was echoed by AMC manager Ahashan Habib, who said: “We organised this day to welcome Afghan families in solidarity and present Aberdeen as a safe place for them, where they can have a better life.
“This is very important for these people who have lost everything – their families, homes, belongings and wealth.
“The beginning is always difficult, but we really wanted to give them a very warm welcome from the communities and from a range of organisations to show them that we are on their side.”
‘We need to give them the support they deserve’
As the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on August 15, millions of people are thought to have fled or are attempting to leave.
Hundreds of families have already safely relocated to various locations in the country – including Aberdeenshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Deena Tissera, community councillor for Castlehill and Pittodrie and co-organiser of the Aberdeen event, added: “It can be quite overwhelming when you’ve gone through such a traumatising and devastating situation to come and call a new place ‘home’.
“The first thing is that they are grateful for getting a new chance at life. But there is concern about having their families back in Afghanistan as well, so it’s a process.
“Families are torn apart, lives are destroyed – it is a traumatising life event to go through, but I think what we can do as a community, is give them the support that they deserve.”
‘We want is to see diversity as a great strength of society’
The event was endorsed by a number of local organisations – including Aberdeen Mosque and Islamic Centre and the Aberdeen Bangladesh Welfare Trust.
The head of Robert Gordon College in Aberdeen, Robin McPherson, also joined the team with a special speech to extend a warm welcome to the Afghan families.
He said: “As a person who has two Afghan-Scottish children, I want them to grow up in a world where we don’t just see tolerance as something we want to promote, but actually go beyond tolerance.
“What we want is to see diversity as a great strength of society, and that’s a strength that we celebrate.
“So in welcoming Afghan families to Aberdeen, we are adding to that diversity and adding to that strength, and I think that this is truly wonderful thing.
“I’m grateful to everyone in the Aberdeen who has contributed to helping the Afghan community, and indeed, all communities here that make our city the wonderful place that it is.”