Saskatoon

Saskatoon woman tells her story of fleeing Afghanistan to find home in the city

Maryam Masoomi was the leader of a music group of young women who sang songs about girl power, education, peace and women empowerment.

'We didn't see that we are refugees here. We think it's our home, Saskatoon is our home,' says Maryam Masoomi

Maryam Masoomi with her music group, Sound of Afghanistan. The group featured young women singing about girl power, education, peace and women empowerment. (Ali Ebrahimi)

Maryam Masoomi fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took control in August 2021. She made it to safety in Saskatoon after several hectic months.

Masoomi recently shared her story as part of a joint effort between the City of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan. She worked with them to release a video promoting inclusion called Have Tea with Me.

Masoomi was the leader of a music group, Sound of Afghanistan, that featured young women singing about girl power, education, peace and women empowerment.

"Because the Taliban was against our activities, we escaped from our country to Canada," Masoomi told Saskatoon Morning.

Masoomi shared her story in Have Tea with Me, a video collaboration promoting inclusion from the City of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Maryam Masoomi)

Masoomi's journey to Saskatoon was arduous. The group she was with waited two weeks in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif before learning they could not fly out.

They traveled from Kabul City to Jalalabad to the Torkham border, a major crossing between the Pakistani city of Torkham and Afghanistan.

"It was a scary journey. We faced Taliban checkpoints. We wore long hijabs and put masks on, so the Taliban did not recognize us, that we are singers and have songs on YouTube," the 26-year-old said.

The group then boarded a bus to Islamabad in Pakistan.

"When I crossed the border, I felt that I was born again. Every member of our group was so happy," she said.

After a month's stay in Islamabad that involved biometric processes and filling out forms, they boarded a flight to Canada and arrived in Saskatoon on Oct. 15, 2021.

"When I was in Islamabad, I heard about Saskatoon. I searched about the city and saw beautiful green city and a nice river. We were so excited to come here."

LISTEN | Maryam Masoomi spoke with host Heather Morrison on Saskatoon Morning: 
Heather Morrison talks with Maryam Masoomi, who fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took control back in August. She recently told her story as part of a joint effort between the City of Saskatoon and the U of S.

When they arrived in Saskatoon, the group was greeted by members from Open Door Society, city police officers, Afghan groups and volunteers from other organizations.

"It was a beautiful moment," she said.

The Open Door Society contacted Masoomi about the video project, in which she shares her culture and experiences to push conversations around inclusion.

Watching Russia's invasion of Ukraine reminds Masoomi of her journey.

"When I saw people cross the border, I just remembered my day. It's so sad. When I see that, I just have pain in my heart and I can't say anything," she said. "In this century, we have wars. Why?" 

Masoomi said the people of Canada and Saskatoon have been very kind.

"We didn't see that we are refugees here. We thought it's our home. Saskatoon is our home."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pratyush Dayal covers climate change, immigration and race and gender issues among general news for CBC News in Saskatchewan. He has previously written for the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Tyee. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UBC and can be reached at pratyush.dayal@cbc.ca

With files from Saskatoon Morning

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