Khoshboo is a 13-year-old Afghan girl, living in Iran with her family. Her father, Abdolkhalil, is deaf, mute and partially sighted. Her mother
as gallstone problems, and because the family cannot afford an operation, walks for hours on end to relieve the pain. After a head injury in infancy, her younger brother Davood has mental disabilities. She has a nine-year-old sister, Arezoo. It is up to Khoshboo to support the family.
An estimated one million Afghan refugees live in Iran, following decades of conflict in their home country. Khoshboo’s parents came to Tehran during the war against the Taliban. In 2003, they returned to Afghanistan, but in an attack on their home Khoshboo’s youngest brother was killed, and Abdolkhalil received his eye injury. The family then moved back to Tehran on a temporary visa. Khoshboo, Arezoo and Davood were born in Iran, but their residence permit was invalidated by the family’s departure in 2003. Their visa, and now also the family passport – their only official identity document – have both expired. The Iranian government takes the position that while the country accepted refugees during internal conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is not responsible for those fleeing ongoing disruption as a result of what it sees as US and NATO failure to establish stability. Recent arrivals, Khoshboo’s family among them, are deemed illegal immigrants. This means that the family has no health insurance, cannot receive social security payments, and that the children are not authorized to study in state schools.
At first, Khoshboo attended a school in Tehran run by an NGO, the Society for the Defense of Street and Working Children. But schooling was to primary level only. She still goes to extracurricular classes, such as in English, and this is her only social life, as Abdolkhalil generally does not allow the children out of the house. Most of Khoshboo’s time is spent
earning money to support the family. This she does by making sandals on a sewing machine loaned to the family by their landlord. Only she knows how to work it. Her father can`t do anything that requires visual precision, and her mother cannot remain sedentary for long periods, though she and Arezoo do help Khoshboo with other parts of the shoes. Together, the women make around 25 pairs of sandals a day, for which they earn the equivalent of about two euros.