Afghan refugees in Edmonton reflect on year since Taliban takeover of homeland

·3 min read
Karima Delijam and her daughter, Soraya Yasa, came to Edmonton as refguees after fleeing Kabul as the Taliban overtook the city last year. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)
Karima Delijam and her daughter, Soraya Yasa, came to Edmonton as refguees after fleeing Kabul as the Taliban overtook the city last year. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)

In a West Edmonton apartment, Karima Delijam, 32, and her 14-year-old daughter Soraya Yasa talk over tea on a calm summer day.

But despite the relaxing domestic scene, Delijam's daily reality is haunted by their traumatic flight from Afghanistan.

"I have nightmares about my family, my parents, my sister," she said in an interview Thursday.

"The nightmare was about the Taliban searching after them and they're running. They're shouting."

Delijam's extended family members are still in her home country.

It has been a year since the U.S. military pulled its troops out of Afganistan. The Taliban, a listed terrorist entity under Canadian law, seized power in the aftermath.

The takeover is considered a human rights crisis with women as well as religious and ethnic minorities being most affected. When the organization was previously in power, it enforced restrictions on women impacting their clothing, public life and education.

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Delijam was living in Kabul when she learned the Taliban had overtaken the city. She was shocked as she watched a panicked scene in the streets outside the office building where she was working.

"Crowds of terrified people. They were running to the houses. They were fleeing to their houses, and the car horns [were] blaring," she said.

"And I can remember I saw a schoolgirl and her books had fallen out of her hands and she was trampled under foot."

Delijam, her husband, toddler and teenage daughter fled to Pakistan where they sought humanitarian aid. The family moved to Edmonton as refugees in January of 2022.

"The people around us, the neighborhoods, we receive support from them and we receive so much love from them," she said.

Flight to Canada

More than 17,300 Afghans have moved to Canada over the past year.

In Alberta, around 3,030 Afghans and their family members have arrived in the province as government-assisted refugees and another 1,110 have been privately sponsored, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

But the move to Canada hasn't always been smooth as the process differs based on individual situations.

Travis McEwan/CBC
Travis McEwan/CBC

Taiba Atimadi, 20, also moved to Edmonton with her family in January. She feels some guilt as friends and relatives live under the restrictions of the regime in her home country, some unable to pursue education.

She also feels frustrated as the freedoms of Canada have with other barriers curtailing her goals. She and her family are still awaiting permanent residency, eight months after arriving in the country.

"[I'm] trying to find my way to start [my] education, but they are all rejecting me. You have to wait for your PR, but it's unknown for me how long it will take," Atimadi said.

"You can start a new life here, but every door that I'm knocking is closed to me right now."

Women's education

In March, the Taliban backtracked on a promise to the international community to reopen schools above the sixth grade.

Both Atimadi and Delijam are part of a group of Afghanistan refugees who are urging humanitarian groups and the Canadian government to assist women and girls in Afghanistan putting themselves at risk by seeking a higher education through scholarships and donations.

"We are trying to somehow let our community and neighborhood understand about this situation and help us to support them because they really need our support for preparing even their basic needs like books and stationery," Delijam said.

At the moment, she sees the situation getting worse in the country but is trying to hold onto hope for the future of her homeland.

Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP/Getty Images
Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP/Getty Images