Tag Archives: Enaiatollah Akbari

The boy without a passport

We rushed to hear Fabio Geda talk about how he met Enaiatollah Akbari, and my goodness but my Italian has improved! It’s almost good. Or it might have been Fabio who was good, dragging me with him, so to speak.

OK, so Fabio came with an interpreter, because his modesty is such that he didn’t want to subject us to his English (which is pretty good, and a lot better than my Italian). Whatever you might think about that, it meant we all got earfuls of beautiful Italian, which made the whole experience so much more, well, Italian.

Fabio Geda

To be fair, Fabio took most of the blame for the absence of Enaiatollah Akbari, having realised too late that England – sorry, Scotland – being outside Schengen a visa was required. So he’s been all over Europe, but not this time. Enaiatollah also appears to have been busy sitting his exams, which is why practicalities were not seen to.

Julia Eccleshare summarised what In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is about, and then Fabio told how he met the Afghan boy at an event for another of Fabio’s books (fiction), and how Enaiatollah pointed out that his story was true. They met for months, just talking, and because Enaiatollah was unable to write it, the job fell to Fabio.

They didn’t see eye to eye on everything. Fabio was furious with the people traffickers, while Enaiatollah was quite matter of fact and felt they were simply there to do a job. The same applied to the Greek woman who helped him. It’s not important who she was, only that she helped.

On the other hand, names have been changed to protect others. To share what happened helped, and Enaiatollah really wanted to tell his story. There is a saying that it’s better to learn from the experience of others.

Enaiatollah has spoken to his mother on the phone, but the two can’t meet. Well, in theory the mother could come to him, but she has two more children who can’t, and she has already had to choose once before… So he uses the success of the book to study at university and to travel, telling others about what it’s like to leave your country.

If he were ever able to return, Enaiatollah would go home to his village and take the place of his murdered school teacher, the man who stood up to the Taliban and died for it.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is a very special story. Yesterday’s event was even more so, bringing everything much closer still. I’m with Julia Eccleshare on this; it’s a rare and moving tale that will remain with us for a long time.

Asked what it’s like to seek refuge in Italy, Fabio simply said ‘dificilissimo’. It was pure luck that Enaiatollah was accepted. It could just as easily have gone the other way.


There are worse things than crocodiles

Can you imagine a civilised European country that would refuse entry to David? That’s David, as in I Am David, by Anne Holm. It’s one of my top hankie books, only recently matched by In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, about Enaiatollah Akbari. The main difference between David and Enaiatollah is that David is fictional. And nicely Danish.

This isn’t the first time I’m mentioning immigration on here, and it won’t be the last either. At least not while some countries believe they are so irresistible that absolutely everyone would prefer to come and live in them, stopping at nothing to achieve their goal.

Did I ever mention the council employee in my borough who checked whether I had any undesirable relatives who might flock to Britain in search of untold riches, and I don’t know what else, if they gave me a National Insurance number? It offended me deeply, and I doubt that even had my elderly aunts been desperate to move to England, that they would have gone about it by getting me to find someone to marry, so that fifteen years later they could join me in my foreigner-‘friendly’ new country.

Anyway, here I am, complete with NI number and everything, and not an unwanted aunt in sight. This weekend I’m heading north, to take in a week at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. (Typing this just now, my attention was caught by the word ‘international’. I think it means something involving several countries.)

So, I was very disappointed to find this information yesterday:  ‘Enaiatollah Akbari, whose story has been so movingly told by Fabio Geda in “In the Sea There Are Crocodiles”, has “…met an obstacle this week that he could not conquer: the UK visa system” and will be linked in to his Edinburgh Festival event by video. 5pm Sunday 21st Aug.’

I loved this book, and I had really been looking forward to the event. It will most likely still be good, with the remaining foreigner they are allowing in. The thing is, Fabio Geda is Italian, and a citizen of an EU country. Enaiatollah Akbari is presumably still an Afghan refugee with the right to remain in Italy. But no right to enter the UK.

What do they imagine he’d do? Stay?

I doubt he’d want to, but if he did, this country ought to be proud to have him. I can’t think of a nicer role model.

So we’ll miss Enaiatollah in Edinburgh. Whoever decided he couldn’t come here ought to be ashamed.  I hope I can find somewhere else that will welcome him with open arms.

(This caused me to think back 29 years, and the immigration officer at Heathrow. I remember his superior tone when enquiring if the Resident IT Consultant was born in England, because it’s a well know fact that us ghastly foreigners stick together. I had to admit that, no, he wasn’t…)