AnIranianwomanwho spent 11 months in international limbo trying to get to Canada with her two childrencollapsed Thursdaybefore a throng of supporters andreportersawaiting her arrival atthe Vancouver airport.
Surrounded by her supporters and a brother she hadn't seen in 14 years,a tearful Zahra Kamalfar, her 18-year-old daughter Anna and 10-year-old son Davoodexpressed their gratitude to Ottawa for allowing them to enter Canada as government-sponsored immigrants.
"I don't know to thank the Canadian government for helping me," Kamalfartold reportersas she and her family wept and embraced each other.
Kamalfar and her two children had lived in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport since last spring, andspent the past three monthsapplying for asylum in Canada.
"Now I feel freedom," her daughter said."I can again [see]a sky, moon, a sun, andI can take again oxygen."
The family's long-delayed journey to Vancouver suffered another bizarre obstacle as Kamalfar was detained bythe RCMP, the result,her supporters said, of a language issue.
Thecrowd of anxioussupporters from Vancouver's Iranian community were told police believed she was using the airplane'swashroom to smoke, but no charges would be laid. Their anxiety turned to joy as the family members made their way through security.
Shortly afterher brief statement, Kamalfar fainted and fell into herfriends' armsamid the glare of photographers and television cameras.Her supportersgave her water and fanned her with homemadewelcome signs as shewas on the terminal floor for several minutes beforebeing helped to her feet and escorted to an awaiting taxi.
"On the airplane she didn't eat anything," her daughter said.
Looking forward to Canadian life
Earlier Wednesday, Kamalfar's lawyer, Negar Azmudeh, said her client and hertwo children were looking forward to their new life in "compassionate"Canada.
"The initial plan is just to settle down and look into her options," Azmudeh said. "She has two bright young children who would like to continue with their studies."
Azmudeh said the family was amazed by the outpouring of affection and compassion after their story became public.
"At this point, she's most grateful to the Canadian people and Canadian authorities. She's looking forward to being in such a compassionate society," she said.
Used false documents
Kamalfar fled Iran while on a two-day pass from jail, where she was serving time for attending a2004 political rally, her lawyer said. Using false documents, she was to travel to Canada through Russia and Germany.
"They were intercepted by the German authorities in Frankfurt and sent back to Russia," the lawyer said.
While in Russia, Azmudeh said, her clients were interviewed by the United Nations refugee agency,but their claim wasrejected because of a miscommunication with a Farsi interpreter.
The family spent several months under house arrest in a Moscow hotel until Russian authorities relocated themto the airport last May or June, Azmudeh said.
Kamalfar and her children had no access to showers, slept on the floor and depended on airport staff for food, Azmudeh said.
"I don't think the words have been invented yet to describe the ordeal," she said.