Tag Archives: afghan

Ceremony for Samir


Saturday Aug 3, 2019. Funeral prayers Samir Hamdard starts 1 o’clock in the Mosquée Al Khalil in Brussels.
Candles filmed during the afghan refugees camp, March 2014, in the Beguinage church of Brussels.

Cricket Beguinage Afghans Team


In March 2014 Kristen Cattell (USA) and Michel van der Burg (Holland) traveled to Brussels, Belgium to meet a group of Afghans living inside an old Catholic church – the church of Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage (Beguinage Church). At the time, nearly one hundred Afghan refugees had set up camp within the walls of the seventeenth century compound. We made a reportage and interviewed several people including Samir Hamdard – the spokesperson for these afghan refugees – who died last Wednesday (report yesterday http://bit.ly/2GJe64S ). In between the interviews we enjoyed watching Samir and the others playing a cricket game in front of the Beguinage church. More about the Beguinage Project here http://bit.ly/1HZguvY
20190802 ~ Cricket Beguinage Afghans Team ~ Beguinage Project reportage Kristen Cattell / Michel van der Burg (film) – michelvanderburg.com | miracles.media

Samir «Afghans Sans-Papiers Spokesperson»


Thursday Aug 1, 2019.  Shocked today to learn that Samir Hamdard (Ahmad Samir Hamdard) has died yesterday (Wednesday) in a hospital as a result of his terrible injuries after he jumped out of the window last Monday in an attempt to escape an explosion and fire of the house in Schaerbeek, Brussels. Samir the tireless activist of peace, justice and solidarity, was chosen as the spokesperson for the afghan refugees in Belgium.
My condolences to his family, afghan and belgian and other friends, the activists who crossed his road in the fight for regularization of the afghan sans-papiers.
Here in commemoration a short film of Samir demanding Justice! – 20 nov 2013, on the arrival of the silent solidarity march for afghan refugees in Brussels.

Samir «Afghans Sans-Papiers Spokesperson»

Ahmad Samir Hamdard demanding justice at the solidarity march for the Afghan “sans papier” community in Belgium, Brussels , Nov 20, 2013.
20190801 ~ Samir ~ Film : Michel van der Burg – michelvanderburg.com

Afghan Sans Papiers in Kazerne Dossin


① memo 20171120 ~ Afghan Sans Papiers in Kazerne Dossin ~ Some 30 young Afghans , undocumented (‘sans papiers’) , and Belgians together* went to the Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen – note : some Afghans were not able to stay because of trauma’s experienced in their homeland – communiqué in french in this video at the finish of the silent solidarity march for the Afghan community of “Sans Papier” in Belgium, by Belgians and Afghan refugees in Brussels , Nov 20th 2013 – in front of the Federal Justice Building (FPS) in Brussels , Belgium

* Organized by the UPJB and the ‘comité de soutien aux 450 Afghans sans statuts’ , and supported by Solidarcité , and SCI – visit saturday Nov 16th 2013 in Kazerne Dossin , Mechelen , Belgium ( SCI “Des rencontres qui questionnent)

More video work on the Belgian Afghan community here :

Beguinage project

Afghans & Belgians « We want justice »

Béguinage Refugees Into The Wild

Béguinage Refugees Into The Wild ~ Posters in the Brussels streets of Afghan refugees living in the Brussels Béguinage church in 2014. Portraits by Chiara Ravano (Antwerp) for the Inside Out project “Justice for afghan refugees in Belgium” (Olivier Bonny, Salon Mommen) in the front of the Salon Mommen, Saint-Josse/ Sint-Joost , Brussels , Belgium.
① memo 20160620 ~ Film : Michel van der Burg | 1-memo.com
#WithRefugees – World Refugee Day

Justice ! Successful solidarity march for Afghan refugees in Brussels

Justice! Very successful solidarity march by Belgians and Afghans for the Afghan refugees in Brussels , today 2 years ago (20 nov 2013). Many are now regularized.

Belgians and Afghan refugees march for justice – Brussels 20 nov 2013

Justice!  Very successful solidarity march by Belgians and Afghans for the Afghan refugees in Brussels , today 2 years ago (20 nov 2013). Many are now regularized. One of these refugees I know – Kamran – recently got visa for his wife and kids to come to Belgium. He started just days ago a fresh start for his family in Belgium .. and a gofundme campaign for some help for his family — while he himself is helping tonight newcomers in the rainy streets of Brussels.

Video report Afghans & Belgians « We want justice »

Background (together with my NY partner Kristen Cattell) in the Beguinage church in Brussels.

Afghan refugees in Brussels – Beguinage Project

 May 28th, 2014 report* from the Afghan refugees camp in the Saint John the Baptist church at the Béguinage in Brussels (Belgium) – click 1st image to start slideshow

Beguinage Project

In March 2014 I traveled to Brussels, Belgium to meet a group of Afghans living inside an old Catholic church. At the time, nearly one hundred Afghan refugees had set up camp within the walls of the seventeenth century compound. There were camping tents and make-shift walls within the Baroque interior. Respectfully abiding by the teachings of Islam, the main religious practice of the Afghans living in the Catholic church, there was one side for woman and children and one side for males.

Their shoes were piled up outside of the doors of their tents and warm pots of chai were passed around during mealtime. On a sunny afternoon dozens joined in on a game of cricket, cautious to not start a scene or cause too much noise. All they could do at this point was wait for a potential interview date and hope to receive legal status in a country that they could only half-heartedly call home.

A majority of the males I spoke with were well-educated; most speaking French, Dutch, and English in addition to their native Afghan language of Dari or Pashto. Their skills and experiences as translators, guards, and service men in Afghanistan had threatened their livelihood and ultimately forced them to flee their homeland. The priest of the church, Daniel Alliet, opened the space to the Afghan refugees because he disagreed with Belgium’s asylum policy.

One Afghan gentleman, who asked to remain anonymous, told me about his journey to Brussels: “When you are working with America or other organizations in Afghanistan the Taliban is a big problem. I was with the forces in Kandahar Province for one year. This was a big, big company in Kandahar. After one year the Taliban send some letters to my family saying, ‘Your son is working for the enemy.’ And they said, ‘He will come and he will work with us.’ Then I went to my home. And after the Taliban found out about me, I came to Iran, then I went to Europe, and this country.”

At present, the situation continues to evolve: the church is now used as an Afghan community center instead of a shelter, some have been granted alternative housing accommodations throughout the country, and many refugees were granted the right to stay in the country legally. In Brussels, and around the world, Afghans are facing the harsh realities of displacement while others are struggling to resettle without official resident status, nevertheless, their strength is what binds them and they tirelessly continue to fight for justice.

Text: Kristen Cattell / Photography : Michel van der Burg

Special thanks to Isabelle Marchal and the many friends that welcomed us , and also others whose works were on display at the church and are shown in these pictures.

* Update Sept 6th 2015 – Our full report first appeared May 28th, 2014 (via the now no longer existing web site “Rising Afghans”) and is now fully included here.
Republishing of the short second photo report that appeared also then , will follow soon (the Inside Out project by JR – with original portraits by Chiara Ravano – at Salon Mommen, Brussels.)

Update Nov 15, 2015 – Added video “Béguinage shadows”

Update Nov 19, 2015 – Added info (below) on the  silent solidarity march for Afghan refugees in Brussels Nov 20th 2013 – “Belgians and Afghans demand justice”

Belgians and Afghans demand justice

Belgians and Afghans demand justice – Video report by Michel van der Burg. Belgians and Afghan refugees demand Belgium changes its asylum policy.
Speeches by Amir Mohammad Jafari (12 y, student and Afghan refugee in Belgium) & Simon Gronowski (Belgian lawyer) 20 nov 2013 on the arrival of the silent solidarity march for Afghan refugees in Brussels. « link to full post »