IN THE SUMMER OF 2009, Zahra Najafi’s husband, Issa, paid a smuggler $12,000 to transport their family from Iran to Turkey and then on a small inflatable raft on the Aegean Sea, to Greece.
As ethnic Hazaras, the Najafis had been forced out of Afghanistan by the Taliban in the 1990s, then lived in uncomfortable exile as refugees in Pakistan and Iran. Issa convinced Zahra that Europe would be a far more tolerant place for an educated Shia couple and their two youngest children. Hamidullah and Ferste could become important people—doctors or teachers, Issa told her.
“Issa kept saying that Europe is a paradise,” said Zahra, a small, elegant woman in her forties. “We had been driven out of Afghanistan twice. We did not feel welcome in Tehran or Quetta, though we had a better life than most Hazaras there. We wanted to find a home.”