They were a tight-knit family that valued hard work and education. Then their father passed away, and the eldest son was kidnapped by the Taliban, targeted for his work for the government of Afghanistan to rebuild the country. The women of the house were vulnerable to attack at any time. Fleeing for their lives, they moved to Indonesia, where they became refugees, with no hope of a better life. We can give them their hope back.
Profile: An Afghani refugee family in Indonesia
Risk: Detainment and death at the hands of the Taliban if they return to Afghanistan
Advantages: Official UN registered refugee status, good English, educated, volunteer in community school and university, FULL FUNDING
Seeking: Five caring Canadians to join our Group of Five team as part of the private sponsorship program
I was born on January 1, 1998, in a small village in Afghanistan. I was the youngest sibling at the time of my birth, with two older brothers and two older sisters. (My younger sister Nazdana was born after me, in the year 2000). One of my sisters as living in Herat, Afghanistan with her husband, and another lived in Shiraz, Iran.
“My father was a farmer and my mother a housekeeper. We were a happy family.”
The village where we lived was in an area of Hazara people, the minority tribe to which my family belongs. Worrying for us, the village was surrounded by a wide region of Pashtun people, the majority tribe of Afghanistan who dominate both the government and Taliban extremists. This made it dangerous for us, as members of the Hazara minority, to leave our town.
By way of context, the Hazara people are recognizable by their dress and facial features, and are persecuted by the Taliban for our different culture, our humanitarian (non-extremist) values, and our practice of the Shia faith. Any Hazara caught outside their town is in danger of being abducted or killed. In addition, the Taliban extremists are not afraid to enter the Hazara towns like ours when they find reason to do so.
On February 1, 2009, my older brother Mohammad left our village and settled in with his wife in Ghazni City. On July 1, 2010, he emigrated to Australia and did not contact our family after that. His wife lived with her parents in Pakistan for seven years, and moved to Australia to rejoin her husband on June 6, 2017.
My father died in January 1, 2008 from cancer. After my father died, my brother Rezabakhsh and my mother worked on our land to provide for the needs of our home. In 2010, my brother left our village and started work with two logistics service companies in Kabul. They had projects with different government ministries. He worked for them from 2010 until we left Afghanistan in 2015.
I graduated from high school in April 2015. That same year, my brother Razabakhsh began to attract negative attention for his work. Companies that are involved in building the infrastructure of Afghanistan are often seen as fronts for Westernization by the Taliban extremists, particularly those companies that do work for the government and with NGOs and INGOs.
My brother's work with these companies made him a target, as did the fact that he was recognizably a member of the Hazara minority. He faced danger each time he had to cross the Pashtun-majority area between Kabul and our town.
The trouble continued when he was working at his job in Kabul. Strangers, recognizable by their dress and language as members of the Taliban, came to our village once or twice a month to ask about my brother. They carried weapons. They said to my mother,
"If your son doesn't stop working with the government and the NGOs by next week, we will kill you and your family."
These visits and threats went on until October 2015. Yet my brother needed to keep his job. In Afghanistan, finding a good job is not easy, and our family could not live without his salary, especially after my father passed away.
With Rezabakhsh working in Kabul, we only had females in the house at that time, which made us vulnerable. We couldn't sleep at night, living in a situation where the armed Pashtun men or Taliban extremists might visit at any time and carry out their threats of violence.
By the winter of 2015, the danger had become unbearable. On November 26, 2015, my uncle Awaz Ali Hussaini sent us to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to get us out of harm and to reunite us with my brother Rezabakhsh. (This uncle, who lived in our village of Narighan Zeerak, was himself later killed on November 7, 2018, during a Taliban attack on Jaghori).
We travelled by private car, in a Toyota Corolla. We arrived at Kabul and met my brother Rezabakhsh. He told us that he had just escaped from the Taliban.
On November 23, 2015, he was traveling through Helmand Province when he was abducted by Taliban troops. He escaped from a small window of the Taliban jail and ran until 3 am. When sunrise came, he flagged down a truck and took a ride to our town.
When he arrived he told my uncle Awaz Ali the story of his escape. He said,
“I will never forget the fear I felt when I was being tortured. I was too scared.”
Our uncle told Rezabakhsh that members of the Taliban were asking for him and he should go to Kabul to find safety with the rest of the family. The kidnapping and detainment of my brother by Taliban extremists confirmed the danger our family was in. We stayed in Kabul until December 8, 2015, when we flew to Delhi, India.
Our group travelling group consisted of myself, my mother Fatimah Rezaie, my younger sister Nazdana Noori, and the family of my brother Rezabakhsh Noori, including his wife Kamila Zeerak and child Bahman Noori.
We stayed at a smuggler's house in New Delhi until early January 2016, when we flew by Air India to Singapore, and on to Indonesia. On January 7, 2016, we registered as refugees with the UNHCR in Jakarta. That same month, we moved to Cisarua Bogor, and found a small home to live in.
On July 7, 2019, we moved to Jakarta after hearing this might improve our chances of gaining accommodation through the UNHCR and the IOM.
In August 2019 I began work as a volunteer mentor at the Roshan Learning Centre in Jakarta City.
On January 3, 2020, I moved back to Bogor and joined to Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre (CRLC) as a volunteer education coordinator.
“It gives me such joy in helping to educate refugee children. May they have the best opportunities this tough world can give them.”
The life of a refugee in Indonesia is not easy. The UNHCR, which originally had promised to settle the refugees in Indonesia in other countries announced two years ago that it has no plans to do so.
Each refugee is given $121 Canadian a month, which even by local standards is well below the poverty line. They are not legally permitted to work, leave the city, enter a car or motorcycle or stay out past curfew, at dinnertime.
The punishment for doing any of these things is to be locked up again in immigration detention.
To learn more about the situation of refugees in Indonesia, watch a clip from The Staging Post, a film featuring Tahira, one of Zia's sponsors, who now lives in Toronto.