The Taliban killed their parents and upended their lives. Why they say they’re among the ‘lucky’ ones – Canada

A handful of medals hang from the wall at Saira Ahmadi’s Toronto-area apartment. Academic awards and school artwork are on proud display in the living room. 

For Ahmadi and her six siblings, these mementos mean more than good grades and championship games — they’re evidence of hard work and a renewed sense of hope. 

That’s because last December, after six years of being apart, Ahmadi finally reunited with her six siblings, after their mother was killed by the Taliban in 2009 and their father met the same fate in 2018. Their four uncles and Ahmadi’s husband were killed as well.

“We are happy to be together,” said Ahmadi. “There is no more separation. We are one family, we all care about each other.”

Ahmadi was already living in Canada during the attacks. Following the death of their parents, her siblings, who now range in age from 13 to 19 years told, managed to escape to Tajikistan — but were alone and without resources.

After much fundraising and even more paperwork, Ahmadi reunited with her siblings in Canada last year. They’ve spent almost every day together since. 

“The best part is we are safe, we have peace in Canada and rights. We have access to all our basic necessities,” said Ahmadi. 

Saira Ahmadi, right, seen waiting for her six siblings to arrive in Canada last year. Ahmadi is seen with Obed Ben Rod, left, with the Afghan Church of the GTA and Anne Woolger, middle, the founding director of Matthew House, a shelter for refugee claimants. (Grant Linton/CBC)

‘New life, new country’

One of the biggest adjustments the siblings have made over the past year is learning a new language while going back to school. The last time they sat in a class room was three years ago. 

“When I came, I didn’t know how to say, ‘Can I go to the washroom?’ It was very hard for me,” said the youngest of the siblings, 13-year-old Joshua Mohammadi, his brothers laughing and nodding in agreement.

Despite that, each sibling is finding their own path in Canada, exploring the possibilities of their potential.

“I am a captain of Greenwood’s soccer team,” said 17-year-old Ali Mohammadi, a smile beaming across his face.

Mohammadi proudly recalled how Greenwood Secondary School’s soccer coach asked him numerous times to join the team. He finally gave in and for the first time in 20 years, the school won the championship game.

Fahim, Murtaza, Joshua and Ali Mohammadi, from left to right, with their soccer medals. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

As Ali spoke, one of the boys pleaded with 19-year-old Mursal Mohammed to get out her notebook to show off some of her drawings. 

Mursal is quieter than her brothers. But with a smile on her face, she flipped to a page with a drawing of a woman sitting with two children, one child under each arm. Above it, she wrote: “I love you mom. I will miss you.” 

Despite the safety, security and optimism the children have felt over the past year, it hasn’t been easy.

“It is hard because new life, new country,” said Mursal. 

Making progress 

Depression and anxiety is something the oldest sister, Ahmadi worries about in her siblings. 

“They had nightmares in the first two weeks,” she said. “It was not easy for them.”

Ahmadi said the family is working through the trauma they have endured. But little by little, she believes they are making progress. 

“Now I can see on their faces how they are happy, how they get bright, full of happiness on their face.”

Mursal Mohammadi shares one of her favourite drawings. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Mursal is still in the process of completing high school, an opportunity she knows she would not get back in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban took over, girls in Grade 7 and above have not been allowed to attend school.

Once she is finished, she would like to become a nurse. 

“I am thinking about my future, it is very good,” said Mursal.

‘We have each other’

Meanwhile, Ahmadi is currently studying to be a social service worker at Centennial College while working as a resettlement counsellor for other Afghan families. 

It’s a fitting position after painstakingly getting her six siblings to Canada.

Ahmadi is also working on sponsoring two of her sisters-in-law with the help of some community members. She is hoping they too will be in Canada in the next two months. 

Since Ahmad’s sibling arrived a year ago, she has also been working on getting her sisters-in-law to Canada. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Her concern now is finding a way to fit more people around their dining room table. There’s barely enough room with the seven of them.

That doesn’t bother Joshua, the youngest, who gets the most amount of words in at the table.

“I think I am lucky with a big family,” he said, grinning as he looks around. “We are helping each other, we are kind to each other. We have each other.” 

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