'Work is work': Afghan ex-minister now delivers food in Germany

For six hours on weekdays and from noon to 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays, Mr Sayed Sadaat shuttles orders to customers. PHOTO: AFP

LEIPZIG, GERMANY (AFP) - He was once a minister in Afghanistan but quit, fed up with the corruption. Now in Germany, Mr Sayed Sadaat is making a living delivering meals as a bicycle courier.

For six hours on weekdays and from noon to 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays, Mr Sadaat dons his distinctive orange coat and big square backpack, shuttling pizzas or other orders to customers.

"There is no shame in the job at all. Work is work," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "If there is a job, it means there is public demand... someone has to do it."

Mr Sadaat is one of thousands of Afghans who have found a home in Germany over the past years. Since 2015, when Europe saw a huge influx of people fleeing wars mostly from Syria and Iraq, around 210,000 Afghans have sought asylum in Germany.

This makes them the second biggest group of people seeking protection in Europe's most populous country after Syrians.

With the Taliban's return to power earlier this month, Germany has also evacuated around 4,000 Afghans, including those who worked with Nato forces and others who need protection. Mr Sadaat's journey to Germany was far less harrowing.

He was minister of communications in Afghanistan from 2016 to 2018. But the 50-year-old said he quit his post because he was fed up with corruption in the government.

"When doing the job as a minister there was a difference between the President's close circle and myself," he explained. "Their demands were for private benefit, I wanted the money for government projects to be implemented properly. So I could not fulfil their demands and then they tried to push me, put pressure on me from the President's side."

Mr Ashraf Ghani was president of Afghanistan from 2014 to Aug 15, 2021.

Mr Sadaat took on a consultancy job in the telecommunications sector in Afghanistan. But by last year, the security situation had deteriorated, he said.

"So I decided to leave," he told AFP.

As a dual Afghan-British citizen, he decided to move to Germany at the end of last year before Brexit made it no longer possible for Britons to obtain residency in the European Union without conditions such as an offer of employment.

He could have secured a post in Britain, but said he saw more opportunities for his sector in Germany. But without German, Mr Sadaat, who came alone and refuses to talk about his family, said he has struggled to get employed.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed his plans to learn to speak German. But he is now taking language classes four hours a day, before getting on the bicycle for food delivery company Lieferando.

Mr Sayed Sadaat cycling for food delivery service Lieferando in Leipzig, Germany. PHOTO: REUTERS

The job pays up to €15 euros (S$24) an hour, enough for his living expenses, including rent of €420 euros a month. Mr Sadaat said he does not regret his decision to move to Germany.

"I know this challenge is for a short time, it is until I can get another job," he said, touting the physical benefits of cycling 1,200km every month.

With the return to power of the Taliban and the withdrawal of Nato forces from his native country, he sees another possible opening for him in Germany.

"I can advise the German government on Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can benefit because I reflect the true picture there," he said. He admits however that no contact has yet been made with the German authorities on the issue.

As for the Taliban, he believes they may have "learnt from the past mistakes" in terms of human and women's rights. But he calls on the international community not to turn its back on Afghanistan and continue providing economic support.

As his shift begins at the stroke of midday, he flicks through his phone.

"I have to go now," he says, riding off through the rain for his first delivery of the day.

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