From Afghani Nightmare to Canadian Dream

 on May 29, 2024

The Akbari family was given a warm welcome to Canada, at Pearson Airport on February 22, 2024, by members of the Refugee Committee of the St. John the Evangelist parish, Hamilton. Sabira, Jawad, and their young son Kiarash were hosted by of one of the committee members until a permanent residence was available on March 1.

The story of the family’s escape from Afghanistan into Pakistan is one of secrecy and fear. Sabira believes that she would have been killed if she had stayed in Kabul. Her brother-in-law was severely beaten by the police because he refused to disclose Sabira’s location. Their story became even more harrowing when they had to risk going back into Afghanistan to obtain necessary travel documents.

Afghanistan is a harsh police state fuelled, since 2021, by the religious fanaticism of the Taliban. Women and girls most obviously bear the brunt of the Taliban’s debased understanding of Islam. Severe limits were placed on the education of women and girls. Women are no longer permitted to practise professions or operate businesses and must confine their activities to domestic life. Even at home, male heads of households are encour- aged to do what is necessary, including physical violence, to make sure women practice their social roles properly.

Furthermore, the Akbaris are members of the minority Hazara ethnic group which has been subjected to numerous genocidal incidents over the last 150 years, the last major ones in 1997 when 2,000 died and 1998 when as many as 20,000 Hazaras were killed.

Prior to the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, Sabira had her own business selling art and handcrafted goods and was actively involved with charities, women’s groups, and social justice organizations. After the fall of Kabul, she joined with other Afghan women as a co-leader of the Afghan Women’s Justice Movement, which led protests and demonstrations against the Taliban beginning in August 2021. Sabira was a prominent leader in the resistance to the Taliban’s social policies, organizing public demonstrations in Kabul and building an international community of protest by internet.

The Refugee Committee at St. John the Evangelist, Hamilton, has been coordinating the efforts of many volunteers finding and equipping a home for the Akbaris.  They have an apartment in Hamilton and while Kiarash attends school (a very happy new experience for him), Jawad and Sabira attend English language classes. Jawad’s focus is on finding a job while Sabira continues her resistance to the oppression of women and the Hazara ethnic group in Afghanistan through online organizing. She has already joined other women in Ottawa meeting with the Member of Parliament Ali Ehsassi (L-Willowdale), attempting to strengthen Canada’s position for the rights of women and the Hazaras in Afghanistan.

This sponsorship is undertaken through our diocese— which holds a sponsorship agreement with the Canadian government—and in partnership with Task Force NYX (TFN), a charitable organization that supports at-risk Afghan women’s rights activists and other private donations. Together, the parish, the diocese, and the co-sponsor are working to support the Akbaris as they settle well into Canadian life.

As a parish, we admire their courage and determination, and we pray for them as they build a new life in Canada.

Akbari family celebrating Noruz in Canada

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. According to information from the United Nations Refugee Agency for 2023, the total number of people worldwide who were forced to flee their homes due to conflicts, violence, fear of persecution and human rights violations was 110 million. This is more than double the 42.7 million people who remained forcibly displaced a decade ago and the most since World War II. Of these, 36.4 million are refugees, having crossed a border to flee for safety, half of whom originate from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Last year our diocese—through its parishes and affiliated community groups—submitted applications to sponsor 45 refugees through our agreement with the Government of Canada. Our diocese is also a member of the Canadian Council for Refugees a national organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees and other vulnerable migrants in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. To learn more about the diocesan refugee sponsorship ministry, visit:

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