Background: Hazara, born in Afghanistan, now a refugee in Indonesia
Risk of return: Persecution, death
Need: Private sponsorship to Canada
Advantages: Advanced English skills, school management, IT technician, UN-certified
Why We Care
Sikandar has been living as a refugee since he was two years old. Born in Afghanistan, his family fled to safety neighbouring Pakistan. Then in Pakistan, he survived two terrorist attacks targeted at Hazaras, the minority group to which he belongs. Two of his friends died in the attack. To save his life, his parents helped him move again, this time to Indonesia.
Seeking to overcome the trauma of his past, Sikandar has devoted himself to helping others, his fellow refugees in Indonesia. He is the principal of the Refugee Learning Center, where he says, “I found friends, colleagues, purpose, and hope.” At the school, the students call him “bhai” or “brother to all.”
Tragically, Sikandar’s father passed away in June this year. The stress which marked his initial time in Indonesia has returned. He realizes that he could be stuck in the country indefinitely, as his future and promise slip away.
With no help of settlement through the UNHCR, his only hope is private sponsorship to Canada. He’s a talented person – an IT professional, a school principal, a humanitarian. But he needs your help to start a new life.
Sikandar was born in 1989 in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. During that time, a popular Taliban saying was “Tajiks to Tajikistan, Uzbeks to Uzbekistan, and Hazaras to the graveyard".
The Taliban persecuted all minorities in Afghanistan, but none more so than the Hazaras. In fear of their lives, Sikandar’s parents fled to Pakistan when he was two years old. Sikandar recalls his life in Pakistan:
“We had a tough life. My father used to do stone breaking work at a mountain site. My mother sewed clothes and made handkerchiefs to support my family and educate my two elder sisters and me."
In 2007, he completed his tenth grade at an informal school, since the public schools were closed to refugees. He started working as a computer teacher to support his family. He also worked in a general store to earn extra money for his education.
Attacked on the Street
In February 2013, Sikander was targeted when he and a friend and I were returning from the market to home. Feeling they were being followed, they started running. Sikander managed to get to a public area where he lost himself in the crowd. His friend was shot in the head.
The shock of nearly losing his own son caused his father to suffer a heart attack and a stroke: he was paralyzed on the right side. The family was afraid to take him to the hospital, in case they were attacked again.
After this incident, Sikandar’s parents would not allow him out of the house except to teach computing at a nearby school.
“I could no longer study himself. I spent most of my time caring for my father.”
After three months, terrorists targeted the school where he was a teaching. They killed two school guards and injured a teacher at the main gate of school. The school was closed.
Sikandar’s parents felt nowhere was safe for Sikandar, their only son. As a Hazara, he could be killed anywhere at any time. Against Sikandar’s wishes, they organized his passage to Malaysia.
Sikandar left Pakistan on December 28, 2014 when he was 26 years old.
“I do not like to recall the parting. The memory of my father’s tears are too painful.”
On arriving in Malaysia, Sikandar was assaulted by smugglers wanting to extort more money from him, but he had nothing left to give and paid for his final passage in blows.
He arrived in Indonesia on January 24, 2015, and quickly registered with the UNHCR. He received his UNHCR refugee status in January 2017.
At first life was difficult. Sikandar was lonely and missed his family terribly. With no legal right to gain a formal education, work or travel, he was depressed.
Hope through Education
After a year, he was introduced to the Refugee Learning Centre, established in response to refugee parents who were concerned about their children’s future. At the centre, Sikander found the opportunity he was looking for – a way to find purpose and to help others.
Starting as IT manager, he was promoted to the management team, and now serves the centre as its principle and manager. He volunteered for six hours a day, balancing the volunteer work with an internship as an IT technician in Genashtim, Indonesia for 18 months.
“As a volunteer, I found friends, colleagues, purpose, and hope. I learned a lot of different life lessons.”
Since Sikandar’s father passed away in June, Sikandar is again experiencing acute stress and as a result his anxiety, sleeplessness and other ailments have returned.
“I miss my family a lot. My father was my best friend, he was my superhero, he was always with me, helped and supported me whenever I had difficulties in my life. I always shared my problems with my father and he always guided me the right direction."
Brother to All
Despite Sikandar’s own problems, he continues to manage the Refugee Learning Centre, which has been particularly challenging this year during COVID lockdowns. The centre has successfully transitioned to online learning under Sikandar’s steady leadership, allowing over a hundred children are able to continue their education.
In these challenging times, Sikandar soldiers on with a smile on his face, bringing hope and joy to others. All of his colleagues at the learning centre call him Bhai – brother- because he is like a brother to all.
Refugees in Indonesia have been told by the UNHCR that they will most likely never be resettled. This is especially true for single men, as women and families are prioritized for UNHCR sponsored resettlement.
Integration in Indonesia is also not an option. Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention so refugees’ rights are not protected, hence they cannot work or access formal education. They live in a state of permanent limbo: they cannot go back nor move forward.
His dire circumstances have not diminished Sikandar’s hopes for the future. He has used his time in Indonesia productively, learning new skills: mostly in management, IT and the English language. He is a kind, caring soul, and just as he is well-loved in the refugee community in Indonesia, so too would he be in Canada.
You Can Help!
Just as Sikandar has helped others, he now needs help. The only way of escaping life in limbo for Sikandar, and the others like him in Indonesia, is through Canada’s private sponsorship program.
Before we can submit an application, however, we need to we have enough funds for his first 12 months of life in Canada.
According to Canadian Immigration, the funds - $16,500 CAD - must be raised first and held in trust before the sponsorship application can move forward. The funds raised will go entirely towards Sikandar’s first year expenses. You can donate here to the online fundraiser that we've launched to reach this goal.
Reach out and discover how wonderful it is to privately sponsor a good person to start a new life – with your help – in Canada!
Sikandar and his many friends thank you for your support. And help spread the word by sharing this post!