Afghan women describe their trip to Canada
SASKATOON, SASK. – Dozens of Afghan women are overjoyed to experience their first Canadian winter after a grueling journey from Afghanistan, where they faced retaliation for their education work.
About 200 Afghan women and their families began arriving in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 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 advocates for the education of women, especially those of the Hazara ethnic minority – two factors that made them the first targets of the Taliban.
Maryam Masoomi is one of those women who now live in Saskatoon.
“When the Taliban took Kabul, I just died and my dreams flew away,” she told CTV National News.
The Marefat school is still open today, but it is now reserved for boys.
Masoomi, also a talented singer, was also concerned that the Taliban might discover YouTube videos of her singing at school as well, as the group had banned the music.
“I just feel like they’re going to kill us,” she said.
When the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital in August, she knew she had to leave as soon as possible.
“It was very shocking news for everyone,” she said. “Everyone was in a hurry and the chaos had started. “
A few days after fleeing his home, Masoomi was able to obtain a Canadian visa. She drove 12 hours to Mazar-i-Sharif, a town in northern Afghanistan. But she couldn’t find a flight out of the country for two weeks and eventually returned to Kabul.
From there, Masoomi and his group made a four hour journey to Jalalabad, west of Kabul, then two and a half hours to the border with Pakistan where they crossed.
“It was such a scary moment,” she said. “I was just crying.”
Once in the neighboring country, it took him another month before he could get to Canada by plane.
Farkhonda Tahery also attended Marefat School and is now based in Saskatchewan. She was one of the first Afghan women to arrive in the city in September.
Tahery said she called her parents as the flight was about to take off to let them know she had escaped.
“It was tough, honestly,” he said. “They were happy because they knew we were going to be safe.”
She has spent time in a Pakistani hostel and often thinks of those still stuck there, dozens of whom face sexual slavery if returned to Afghanistan.
“It is a high risk that they will be taken and sold as slaves,” she said.
More than 100 Afghan refugees remain at home in potentially dangerous circumstances. Several charities have tried to push the Canadian government to speed up the immigration process for these people, but the government is not committed.
CTV News has learned that Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani women’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is lending her name to the cause.
The Canadian government has promised to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, but there is no timetable to do so. So far, the government has been able to bring in 6,495 refugees through the three streams, according to government figures.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada received 14,720 applications from Afghans who assisted the Canadian military in the war in Afghanistan.
Masoomi is also worried about other Afghan refugees who remain in precarious situations, but hopes to be part of the solution in the future.
“In Afghanistan, [the refugees] will not have a future, ”she said.
“I want to be a good leader and I want to participate in Parliament and help the people of Saskatchewan and Saskatoon.