6,000 Miles to Freedom: Two Boys and Their Flight from the Taliban
A narrative account, in graphic novel format, of the traumatic experiences faced by children fleeing war and poverty in Afghanistan, as well as the isolation they often feel as refugees in the West.
Two boys. One war-torn country. A world away, freedom.
Twelve-year-old Adel and his cousin Shafi try to lead a normal childhood in war-torn Afghanistan. But when Adel’s father dies, everything changes. His uncle, a religious fundamentalist, sends Adel to study at a madrasa run by militants, where he is trained as an insurgent and chosen to carry out a suicide bombing. When his moment of martyrdom arrives, Adel’s detonator fails, and he is forced to flee the country or risk being killed by the Afghan police or the Taliban themselves.
Together, Adel and Shafi set out to seek refuge in England, where Shafi’s brother now lives and where a new life awaits. With that hope, the two boys begin the perilous journey of 6,000 miles to freedom, crossing mountains on foot and squeezing into crowded trucks with other refugees. The two become separated only to find each other again in the Calais Jungle encampment, their last, hellish stop.
Based on numerous testimonies from refugee youth, this poignant, timely, and well-documented story brings to life the traumatic experiences faced by Afghani children fleeing war and poverty, as well as the isolation they often feel as refugees in the West.
My review: These were 128 pages of heartbreak. The past 10 years have seen an increase in the debate on immigrants from the Middle East, on the dangers some pose (which nobody denies) but we forgot to look at the lives of the innocent. The story presented has fictional characters, but it's based on true events and testimonies from survivors. We should all agree on the fact a 10-year-old is too young to embark on such a dangerous journey, but it happens, and with a good reason.
The book presents the tragic adventures of a few boys fleeing Afganistan, after one of them was forced to become a martyr for the extremists. He was put in a suicide bomb vest and asked to blow up a police station. He escaped, and that's where his 6000-mile journey begins. He and his companions endure abuse at the hands of the smugglers, are beaten by thieves, eat leaves and grass to survive, sleep in the cold, and are constantly in danger in the attempt to reach England. It's an eye-opening testimony to the suffering these children must endure to reach safety. They're just as afraid of extremists as the rest of the world. Is this book enough to make us kinder and more sympathetic? I don't know, but the author and the visual artist did a wonderful job in bringing it to us.
Publisher: Graphic Mundi; 1st edition (April 26, 2022)
Hardcover: 128 pages
Reading age: 16 years and up
Review copy provided by Diamond Books @ Edelweiss+