Monday, January 17, 2022

‘I was just crying’: Afghan women describe painful journey to Canadian soil

Saskatoon, Sask. Dozens of Afghan women are excited to experience their first Canadian winter, after an arduous escape from Afghanistan, where they face retribution for their work in education.

About 200 Afghan women and their families began arriving in Saskatoon, Saskatoon, as refugees in September after fleeing the Taliban for a better life in Canada. They are all students and graduates of the Marefat School in Kabul, which supports education for women, particularly the Hazara ethnic minorities – two factors that made them early targets for the Taliban.

Mary Masoom is among the women who are now calling Saskatoon home.

“When the Taliban captured Kabul, I just died and my dreams were gone,” she told CTV National News.

Marefat School is still open today, but is now only for boys.

Masumi, who is also a talented singer, also feared that the Taliban would expose YouTube videos of her singing in school, as the group had banned the music.

“I think they’ll kill us,” she said.

When the Taliban captured the Afghan capital in August, she knew she had to get out as quickly as possible.

“It was very shocking news for everyone,” she said. “Everyone was in a hurry and the chaos had begun.”

A few days after escaping from her home, Masumi got a Canadian visa. She drove 12 hours to Mazar-e-Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan. But she could not find a flight out of the country for two weeks and eventually returned to Kabul.

From there, Masumi and her group traveled four hours west of Kabul to Jalalabad, and then two and a half hours to the border with Pakistan where they crossed.

“That one moment was very scary,” she said. “I was just crying.”

Once in a neighboring country, it took him another month to be able to fly to Canada.

Farkhonda Taheri also went to Marefat School and is now settled in Saskatchewan. She was one of the first Afghans to arrive in the city back in September.

Taheri said she called her parents as the flight was about to take off to let them know that she had survived.

“It was difficult, honestly,” he said. “They were happy because they knew we would be safe.”

She had spent time in a Pakistani hostel and often thinks about the people who are still trapped there, dozens of whom face sexual slavery if they are deported back to Afghanistan.

“It is a high risk that they are being taken and sold as slaves,” she said.

More than 100 Afghan refugees live in hostels in potentially dangerous conditions. Several charities have tried to push the Canadian government to speed up the immigration process for these people, but the government has not committed.

CTV News has learned that Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani lawyer for women’s rights and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is lending her name to the cause.

The Canadian government has promised to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, but has no deadline to do so. According to government figures, so far the government has been successful in bringing 6,495 refugees through three streams.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has received 14,720 applications from Afghans who helped the Canadian military in the Afghanistan War.

Masumi is also concerned about other Afghan refugees who live in precarious conditions, but hopes to be part of the solution in the future.

“In Afghanistan, [the refugees] There will be no future,” she said.

“I want to be a good leader and I want to participate in parliament and help Saskatchewan and Saskatoon people.”


Nation World News Desk
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