Hanging around into the night outside Ostiense railway station following a distribution of food, fifteen year old Ali Hussain waits for a bus that can transport him to a night shelter in central Rome. “There is no peace in Afghanistan. Still the conflict and the killings go on. If it wasn’t for the sake of my life being in danger then it would be wrong to ever embarked on this journey. It has taken me one year to get this far and maybe I will have to wait a further ten years to hear if we will ever be accepted in Europe. Turning back would be too difficult now and isn’t an option for me because my mother and father are both jobless. The sad thing is, I was fourteen when I left them and maybe by the time I ever go back, their child will be a thirty-two year old man. I know that day and night they are thinking about me but they understand young how hard it was for me growing up in Afghanistan. I really hate those people who started war in my country”.
Moving from one refuge to another on a path well trodden by the twenty or so Afghan boys that transit the city each week, Ali has quickly found his feet in Rome: “I feel freedom for the first time ever in my life”.
Escaping from Greece in shipping containers or small smuggler operated boats after months or often years spent stranded, upon arrival in Italy all roads invariably lead to Rome.
Known to the Afghans as The House of Bruce Lee after the popular fight sequence in Way of the Dragon, few boys spend more than a week transiting through the ancient city.
For many, it is a place where they experience a sense of freedom for the first time in their lives.
In the Flowers of Afghanistan, Alixandra Fazzina follows Afghan boys making the dangerous overland journey from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe to apply for asylum in EU Member states.
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