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Ryna was 17 when the Taliban came to her village in Afghanistan.

Her father and brother were killed in front of her, her mother and sister were taken in another direction from her, she was thrown into the back of an open truck with other young girls. She remembers the screaming, the crying, the shouting. She remembers thinking, “why is this happening?”

There were many men in the back of the truck. They took turns in trying to kill her form the inside, this is how she described her gang rape experience. Ryna doesn’t know how long she was unconscious but remembers wakening to the sounds of muted sobs from other girls in a dark room. She stated she wished for death at this point. The pain in her body was almost too much to endure. The girls tried to comfort each other. She remembers a woman coming in to give some food and water. 

And then her journey began. She doesn’t know what countries she travelled through she just remembers the weather. The only thing that was consistent were the men who abused her, some more than others.

She developed coping mechanisms to endure her experience, she would think of happier times as a child with her family. She would often think of a particular school teacher who she was very fond of. She travelled by boat and trains—never by air and never alone. She never had to speak, someone was always there to speak for her. She arrived in Belfast after a long train journey, so we can assume she came via the south of Ireland.

Ryna was accompanied by another girl not from Afghanistan. They could only communicate by gestures and looks. The men brought them to a house—and so it began.

Then police came and brought her to the sanctuary. It had been two years since the attack on her village. She was 19 years old. And so another journey began…

Ryna was interviewed by the PSNI for days for intelligence and prosecution purposes. She trusted no one.  She was extremely subservient in her manner and wanted to please everyone she came into contact with.  We started a process of support, we needed to gain her trust/ her acceptances of our role, that we had no hidden agenda.

She entered into the NRM and remained in an extended reflection period for 7 months and was then granted leave to remain in the country.  We had contacted Red Cross to hopefully discover what had happened to Ryna’s mother and sister but there is still no news. After 6 months Ryna started attending a local Mosque. She enrolled in English classes and met an Afghan family who befriended her.  She moved into independent living in the local community and regularly keeps in touch with us. I still don’t think she fully trusts us and sees us as officials. She says she still lives in fear from her past and in her future and asks, “why did this happen to me?”