Journalist Saghar was forced to leave her home in Afghanistan with her husband two years ago. Despite arriving in the UK with limited English skills, Saghar hasn’t let that stand in the way of her dream to become a fashion designer.
“Ever since I was a teenager, I have been designing my own clothes,” says 27-year-old Saghar. After getting her bachelor’s degree in journalism in Kabul, Saghar followed in her mother’s footsteps and began her career in media.
“In Afghanistan we had a very, very good life. Everything was perfect. I graduated with a degree in journalism and worked in TV,” she says. “My mother is also a journalist and she worked with the BBC in Kabul. My father is a doctor and was a professor at a university. We are a very educated family and had lots of freedom then.”
But when the government changed, Saghar quickly made arrangements to leave Afghanistan with her husband and his family. She had to make the difficult decision to separate from her own family who remained in Afghanistan.
“We went to my father's house to hide for four days,” Saghar recalls. “And after four days, we came to the UK. It was so dangerous for us, we had to leave to survive.
I was crying the whole way from Afghanistan. I was crying for my parents, for my mum, for my father, for my brothers, for my whole country. I felt like my country was dead. I just thought about my family still in Afghanistan and I didn't want to leave them, but I had to go.
Saghar arrived in Manchester on August 18, 2021 and moved to Liverpool just ten days later. She was eventually reunited with parents and brothers who followed her to the UK, now living nearby in Manchester.
Adjusting to life in the UK
Having left behind her life in Afghanistan, at first Saghar faced barriers in adjusting to her new home, especially as she arrived with limited English language skills. “Coming here, I was depressed and I sat here and just couldn’t stop thinking,” she says. “But after one month I said, ‘no, you can't live like this, you need to go outside and do something for yourself.’”
Determined to rebuild her life, Saghar signed up to 15 courses, including maths and English classes, at a local college just a few weeks after arriving. Saghar also joined the IRC’s leadership course where she learnt valuable skills in activism, storytelling training and public speaking.
“It was such a good experience. It improved my self-confidence and after it finished I was so sad. I'm so happy I joined that class,” she says.
As well as being supported by the IRC, Saghar says she was overwhelmed by support from her new neighbours in Liverpool. “We came here and the whole country knew about our situation. It was a very, very warm welcome. When we moved to Liverpool, every single day people came to our hotel and said ‘We understand and you are welcome in the UK’. And they had gifts for us. I will always remember those days and the love they gave us.”
Working in the community
While juggling five courses and a new home, Saghar was determined to help other refugees in the UK and volunteered at the British Red Cross for ten months. She helped refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, India and Pakistan by translating English language courses, while also helping students apply for college courses.
Saghar now calls the UK home and is excited about her future here. “I like the freedom here and I like that people respect each other so much. They don’t care what they do, what they're wearing, what they're doing.
Everyone minds their own business, their own work, their own life. And it’s so important to have freedom. I only have positive things to say about the UK. I always say to my husband, and my friends, that I feel like it’s my home now. It's home for me and now I'm happy.
Following her dreams
With dreams of working in the media and fashion industry, Saghar is doing everything she can to make her dreams into a reality. As well as writing stories and taking part in media interviews, she has recently completed a fashion design course at Liverpool College and is now studying for her diploma.
“I want to have my own boutique,” she says. “I want to be a professional fashion designer in my traditional Afghani dress. And also I like vintage style 1920s or 1950s. So I want to recreate this kind of style again and bring it into the current style.”