This episode is part of a mini series exploring forced displacement as one of the many legacies of conflict. Alice interviews Dr Waheed Arian, author of In the Wars – an autobiography, published in 2021, which narrates his journey of forced migration from Afghanistan to the UK. Dr Arian was born in Kabul in 1983 and his childhood was dominated by the Soviet-Afghan war. His family spent years fleeing the fighting, especially after his father was conscripted into the army, and they took the difficult decision in 1988 to escape to Pakistan, which involved a hazardous mountain journey, dodging terrifying air strikes. Their cramped, difficult living conditions in a refugee camp in Pakistan resulted in Dr Arian becoming seriously ill, with a combination of malnutrition, malaria and tuberculosis. That experience – and the medical care he received – inspired him to start dreaming of becoming a doctor.
Dr Arian and his family returned to Kabul when Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan; but civil war rapidly broke out, and as the Taliban’s grip on power increased, his parents became increasingly concerned that he would be recruited to fight, so they arranged for him to travel to the UK. He was fifteen years old, and on arrival as a refugee he was immediately imprisoned and sent to the Feltham Young Offender Institute. Against all the odds, Dr Arian learnt English, took on multiple jobs in shops and restaurants, and studied in the evenings, gaining the A-levels required to read Medicine at the University of Cambridge. From there, he became a doctor, specialising in radiology, and he now works on the front line in A&E in the NHS.
Aware of the ongoing need for more medical support and training in Afghanistan, Dr Arian has set up a charity called Arian Teleheal, which enables volunteer medics based in the UK to advise medical colleagues in Afghanistan and elsewhere, using smart phones, social media and other every-day technologies. Motivated by his personal experiences of trauma and PTSD, he has also developed Arian Wellbeing, a telemedicine project focused on providing culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed care for patients who struggle to access mental health services, particularly refugees. Dr Arian has become a powerful advocate for refugees in the UK, and he has been recognised for his charity work by multiple organisations, including a UN Global Hero Award in 2017, a Rotary International Peace Award in 2018, and the UK Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award in 2018.
In the podcast, we discuss Dr Arian's journey towards self-healing, via the work that he does helping others. He outlines the vital need for more holistic care to support refugees' physical, mental and social needs. We discuss the power of care and compassion; the day-to-day contributions made by refugees in their new communities; and the right that everyone has to safety, to a normal, settled life, and to hopes and dreams. Like his book In the Wars, Dr Arian's conversation offers moving insights into refugee experiences, critical analysis of current support systems, and powerful truths about refugee rights.
We hope you enjoy the episode. To find out more about our wider project on Visualising Forced Migration, please visit our website. If you have any questions or want to contribute to our ongoing discussions, please do get in touch. You can follow us on social media or contact us directly by emailing us at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Our theme music was composed by Jonathan Young.
The show was mixed by Zofia Guertin.