Afghan families look to start new lives in Windsor

Nearly eight months after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, several families from the country are starting over in Windsor.

Families say decision to leave after Taliban took over was difficult

Ghousuddin Frotan and his wife Fatima (centre), moved to Windsor in January with their eight children (from left to right) Marwa, 12, Sarwan, 11, Hela, 9, Lema, 5, Kainat, 5, Hosai, 13 months, Wranga, 8, and Rayaan, 14. (Aastha Shetty/CBC)

Nearly eight months after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, several families from the country are starting over in Windsor.

Ghousuddin Frotan, his wife Fatima and their eight children arrived in Windsor on Jan. 7.

The journey to get to Canada was not easy, he said, with stays along the way in Qatar, London and Mexico, and a harrowing experience at Kabul airport, where one of the children was missing for several hours in the chaos.

The Frotan children hold up a sign expressing thanks to Canada in a photo taken along Windsor's riverfront. (Submitted by Ghousuddin Frotan)

But right now, the children are in school and the family is building a new community.

Frotan said it's his dream for his children to get a good education and study in their chosen fields. Some of the children already have their sights set on engineering and health care, he explained.

Frotan, a journalist who also worked with non-profit organizations, said many in the journalism field wanted to leave the country after the government fell to the Taliban in August.

"Fellow journalists, those people who are involved in the media, human rights defenders, civil society activists and ... ex-government [employees], they are still in trouble," said Frotan, who worked for the Wall Street Journal in Afghanistan and is currently doing a fellowship in global journalism at the University of Toronto.

"They are hiding themselves, they are followed, they are arrested, and even they are killed."

Despite the situation, it was not easy for the family to leave. On one hand, Frotan said he was happy to be going to a "dream country" where they could be safe. 

"From the other side, I was leaving everything behind: my parents, my family members, my close friends and my country," he said. "So it was difficult."

'I'm worried about them'

1 year ago
Duration 1:59
Mustafa Ahmadi and Kubra Haidari, who moved to Windsor from Afghanistan, talk about their worries for family members who remain in the country.

With the Taliban banning secondary school for girls, he's not sure his daughters would have gotten an education.

"Now, here, they have the opportunity to study what they want, to go to university," he said.

He's concerned for those remaining in the country, and also for those facing months-long waits to get out.

10,000 Afghans have arrived in Canada

While much of the world's attention has shifted to the war in Ukraine, a humanitarian crisis is still unfolding in Afghanistan

According to the United Nations, 95 per cent of Afghans aren't getting enough to eat, and acute hunger is affecting 23 million people as of March.

And as of last week, only around 10,000 Afghans have arrived in Canada since the fall of Kabul. Ottawa has promised to bring in 40,000 as part of a multi-year commitment.

Mustafa Ahmadi and Kubra Haidari moved to Windsor in February. (Aastha Shetty/CBC)

As they settle into their new life in Canada, home is not far away in the minds of Mustafa Ahmadi and Kubra Haidari.

The couple arrived in February. After spending about five months in Albania, they came to Canada — first to Toronto, and then to Windsor.

"It has been very difficult for the both of us," Ahmadi said. "When we left Afghanistan, obviously, we were glad we could get out of that chaotic place — unlike so many others who got stuck there. But at the same time, my extended family and Kubra's immediate family were stuck in Afghanistan, and we couldn't do anything to help them."

Currently, they're getting established in their new city, and thinking about what's next. As of right now, they plan to stay in Windsor.

Haidari was a women's rights activist in Afghanistan and wants to go to law school. Ahmadi worked in the non-profit and private sectors in the country.

Their decision to leave was also a very difficult one. Haidari especially worries about women and girls in her family.

"They are not allowed to go to college nowadays," she said. "And the girls [are] struggling with this obstacle that the Taliban put in their way to reach their goals and pursue their education. It's hard for me, thinking about them."

With files from Aastha Shetty