IT’S ONE THING
TO LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY

IT’S ANOTHER
TO LEAVE IT ON YOUR OWN

Ted Talk: The Dream of Educating Afghan Girls Lives On

Originally published on TedWomen2021

Ted Talk: The Dream of Educating Afghan Girls Lives On
Shabana Basij-Rasikh

At TEDWomen in 2012, educator Shabana Basij-Rasikh challenged the world to dare to educate Afghan girls and help create the best-educated generation Afghanistan had ever seen, after years of oppressive Taliban rule. The result? School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) — the country’s first and only all-girls boarding school — was forged. In 2021, the Taliban returned and Basij-Rasikh faced a new challenge: coordinating the evacuation of more than 250 SOLA students, staff and family members from Kabul to Rwanda.

Two events, nine years apart. Now Basij-Rasikh tells the story of the days that came between, and her hopes for the days to come. An exceptional story of courage and resilience — and a challenge for the world to not look away.

An amazing family in danger

All names have been changed for the protection of those we are trying to help.

Sponsored by Rideau Bridge to Canada

Kara is a journalist, human rights defender, and single mother of two. Before the flight, she was living in a two-room apartment in Kabul with 15 people for three months.

Although she was thrilled to leave Afghanistan with her children, mother, and sister, it was bittersweet as she had to leave behind another sister, her husband, and their two young children; as well as her brother, his wife, and their two children plus two other family members. Kara left with the knowledge that people in Canada were working toward getting the balance of her family to safety outside of Afghanistan and then sponsoring them to Canada. This is a family who has consistently shown their humanity and passion for civil rights and now is a very large target for the Taliban.

Sponsored by CARR

CARR has applied for private sponsorship for 2 Afghan families – Kara’s other sister and her brother and their young families – 8 people. This is a family reunification with the six being sponsored by Rideau Bridge to Canada. It is traumatizing to have to flee one’s Country for safety – there is solace in resettling close to other family members…

There have been cross-border flare-ups in the eastern area of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border making safety an ongoing concern for those who have fled Afghanistan. It is very unlikely that information on this website would fall into the hands of the wrong people, however, we have decided to use extreme caution and will not use family members’ real names, nor specific positions they held before the Taliban takeover.

Still, we believe that it is important that we introduce you to the families and let you get to know them as we have been so fortunate to be able to do through correspondence. Originally we had planned to post some photographs, but have decided against that as well… Suffice it to say that we have established a rapport and so look forward to meeting these Afghan families in person and having them become a part of our community – we are confident you will as well…

A little bit of background

Let us begin by giving some of their background and how they came to be such human rights activists. To do this we will start with the matriarch of the extended family. She was widowed at the age of 28 and left to raise 4 small children aged 3, 5, 7, and 9, with all the challenges that a single mother faced in Afghan society during the years of war. She worked as a teacher to feed her family after the loss of her husband. She became involved with human rights, prioritizing women’s human rights. She worked in government as well as with the Human Rights Commission for 15 years in many different capacities.

This mother instilled a sense of fairness and duty in her children – she taught them by example. All her children are well educated and have taken up the torch of fairness, equality, and human rights for all. They are a close-knit family and Canada is the benefactor as they chose our country as their place to resettle.

Meet the family

The members of the families that CARR is sponsoring:

Nel (not her real name) is a female defense lawyer by profession and the mother of two young children. Her work in Afghanistan before the Taliban take over was defending human rights and women’s rights, supporting the most vulnerable women at risk of violence. Her husband is also a defense lawyer and was working for the government of Afghanistan. Nel and her family lived in northern Afghanistan.

As it became clear that the Taliban were making progress with their takeover attempt in early August, it also became clear that human rights activists/workers and government employees were in danger and at high risk of being arrested and/or killed. Nel’s husband was in Kabul when Nel packed up the children with the few things she could bring and hired a driver to take them to Kabul.

The second family is comprised of Salan (not his real name), his wife, and their 2 young children. Salan is a lawyer by education and profession. He was working with a Legal firm that provided legal support and access to justice for governmental authorities. He was also working with the Afghan Women Education Center to promote women’s rights, access to education for women, and girls’ capacity building on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

Salan and his family lived in northern Afghanistan as well. His wife worked as a lecturer at a teacher’s college training women and men to become teachers and support girls to understand their educational rights. As things in their country deteriorated, they fled northern Afghanistan in early August.

After the takeover

The families lived together with their extended family in a safe house in Kabul – the matriarch, siblings, and their families – 15 people. The Taliban took control of the country on August 15, 2021. Rolling back women’s rights advances and media freedom was among the first changes. The Taliban looted the Human Rights Commission office and shut it down. The Taliban began revenge reprisals against Afghans affiliated with the deposed Western-backed government and its legal system. It became clear that the families would have to leave their homeland for their safety and the safety of their children.

At the end of October Nel’s mother, older sister with her 2 children, and her younger sister were told they had seats on a charter flight arranged by Baroness Helena Kennedy. 77 Afghan women journalists, judges, and their families were evacuated – a total of 373 people, to Athens. It was bittersweet for the 5 – elation to be leaving the country to safety, but torn to leave behind the other 10… The decision was made a little easier with the knowledge that there were sponsors in Canada that would continue to work to get the remaining family members out of Afghanistan to safety and begin the process of bringing them to Canada. Things were changing daily and within days it was no longer possible for flights from Afghanistan to Greece.

Out of Afghanistan

CARR worked with Rideau Bridge to Canada, a woman in London, a woman in Dubai, and a grassroots organization on the ground in Kabul – visas were purchased, and overland transportation was arranged to the border. In the very early morning hours of February 8th the remaining group of 10 began their precarious journey of traveling overland passing through several Taliban checkpoints, waiting outside in a lineup at the border for over 12 hours, and back into a vehicle – it was a 25-hour ordeal before they safely reached their accommodation in Pakistan.

The families are currently in the process of registering with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Pakistan. We have submitted all the necessary applications and documents required for sponsoring the two families. Now we wait…

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve done this before

More than four years have flown by since the CARR was first set in motion.

During that time the CARR helped twenty-five people, whose lives had been torn apart by war and oppression, find their way successfully into our community and into our hearts.

Over a year after the arrival of the final family, it is fair to say that all those who have arrived have personally benefitted by finding a home in a safe small Canadian town where adults and children can learn, grow and flourish.

 Meet Fawza and Waed

In 2018  Fawza and her family joined her sister and her family in Perth. She is forever grateful for the people who support her family.
“The people here really, really, really, saved our lives.”

To read Fawza and her daughter Waed’s story click on the button below.