Afghan family’s incredible journey celebrated in emotional reunion
Afghani women ‘Amina’* is an unlikely superhero.
The diminutive, bespectacled Hazara woman brought her three children out of Afghanistan and to safety in Australia despite not having complete visas documents and while being on a Taliban hit list.
As the Taliban took full control of the beleaguered nation on August 15, Amina and her three children navigated their way through a series of militant checkpoints and made it to Kabul’s international airport.
There, they braved suicide bombing attacks, tear gas and human stampedes to make it into the safety of the airport terminal.
With documents showing her husband ‘Baqir’ was living in Australia as a citizen, she was able to get her family onto a military flight to freedom.
Her story’s happy denouement came two weeks ago when Amina, her son Hussain and two daughters were reunited in emotional scenes in Melbourne with their husband and father after 12 years apart.
Baqir had fled an earlier iteration of Taliban persecution more than a decade previously.
This week Amina and her family recounted their incredible journey to safety and freedom for iMPACT magazine. Their names have been changed over safety concerns.
“My husband had been in Australia for 12 years – we had met only a couple of time in Pakistan over those years,” she said.
“It was very difficult to be separated from him and the situation in Kabul had become unpredictable and very dangerous,” Amina said.
“It was very disheartening and difficult when the Taliban took over; everything fell apart very quickly. Everything we had hoped and dream of vanished.
“And the Taliban were going door to door looking for people who had worked for western governments of military and people with ties overseas,” she said.
Amina was one of the people in danger as an effectively single mother with a husband overseas. But luckily she had no contact with the Taliban.
“When the Taliban took over we were very worried. Our application to come to Australia was being processed so we called my husband but there was no update,” she said.
“We decided we had to leave the country so we went to the airport. It was difficult to get to the point where we could enter the airport. There was the risk of suicide bombings and the stampeding crowds around the airport – there were a lot of people there.
“I had never seen or experienced anything like this. But we risked out lives to get to the airport and then we were very lucky that our documents, which were not complete, were accepted and we were allowed in.
“We had no options but to leave no matter how difficult it was. Life under the Taliban was impossible for us. As a woman I had no rights, I could not even go out shopping or do anything.
“With my husband overseas and not with me, it was difficult as the Taliban were looking for people like me. I was very worried and very scared but I knew I had to get my family to safety,” Amina said.
Son Hussain (19) said his school came under threat from the Taliban at times.
“Many times we were told not to go to school. Most of the students were Hazara so it was a target and also it taught English. I was learning English because I was hoping to go to Australia,” Hussain said.
Hussain says he and his two sisters are desperate to get back to school.
“My sisters and I want to study and get an education and then get jobs and become useful additions to society. That’s our aim,” he said.
Amina and Baqir said they were grateful to have found a safe haven in Australia for their kids. And they are keen to see their children get and good education and contribute to Australian society.
“It was very difficult to be apart from my husband but now we are very happy and grateful to be reunite with him here in Australia,” Amina said.
“I want to thank the Australian government and people, and AMES, for supporting us as we get on our feet here in Australia,” she said.
Baqir has been working as a tiler in Melbourne’s south east.
He arrived in Australia 2011 and is now a citizen. He made to his way to Indonesia and came to Australia by boat.
“I left because of the Taliban and the security situation. I was only able to see my family a couple of times in 12 years. We met in Pakistan,” Baqir said.
“Those with family members abroad are harassed by the Taliban. They knew I was in Australia and sometimes they would come in the night and my wife was beaten,” he said.
“My family left for the airport with no visas. They were lucky to get on a plane. Amina showed the documents she had with her that said I was here in Australia and they allowed my family through.
“It was a very big risk they took and I’m happy they got out and did not get killed. It is amazing they are all still in one piece,” he said.
Baqir said he didn’t know of his family’s bid for freedom
“I was at work when they left. They called me from the airport. They said ‘we are at the airport with the Australians’. I could not believe it,” he said.
“I was very worried because I could not help them in any way because everything happened so quickly.
“I last saw them in Pakistan four years ago. This is unbelievable for us. I am very happy and very lucky they are here with me,” he said.
Baqir says he sees a bright future for his family.
“I have been away from my family for 12 years and now we are reunited and will remain so and build a new life together,” he said.
“I want my kids to get an education and do what they want. Maybe become doctors or lawyers or engineers and make valuable contributions to Australia,” Baqir said.
*The names of the family members have been changed to protect their identities over safety concerns for loved ones still in Afghanistan