‘I saw London red buses turn into tanks: the traumas of war never go away’

The horror of the pictures coming from Israel and Gaza has had a profound impact on everyone this past month. For Shrewsbury-based A&E consultant Dr Waheed Arian, though, it is quite particular. They take him back to his childhood in war-torn Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I was recently scrolling,” the 40-year-old doctor says, “and I saw this image from a healthcare worker in Gaza with two things in his hand. When I looked closer, they were the lower legs of a child. One had a shoe on it and the other didn’t.” In that moment he experienced what he calls “a process of retraumatisation”. He says this calmly, as if stepping back and diagnosing himself.

The first 15 years of Arian’s life were spent in a perpetual state of war, as first Mujahideen fighters drove Soviet occupiers out of Afghanistan, and then with the rise of the Taliban. He was just five in 1988 when he first fled with his family from Kabul over mountain paths to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Seven years later they returned to their home, hoping the situation had improved, but it remained a battlefield.


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