In Focus Lecture: Afghans in Search of a Home – Crisis Awareness and Welcoming Refugees to a Brighter Future

Watch the recording of the webinar

Afghanistan is once again the victim of international politics as the American-backed regime toppled on August 15 and the Taliban have assumed power. Our lecture will look at the repeated pattern of violence and destruction that has been Afghanistan’s lot in the past 30 years, and the situation in the country now. We will hear from Beacon of Hope: a Canadian-based NGO that has been providing educational resources for children in Afghanistan, as well as the perspectives of two Afghan women working in Canada to assist Afghan families reunite and build there lives again. Lastly, we will discuss local campaigns and resources and where we can all help out.

Hosted by

ZARGHOONA WAKIL, Senior Manager, Specialized and Innovative Programs at MOSAIC BC.

Zarghoona is an International Medical Doctor, specialized in Internal Medicine, has a Master of Public Health degree from Simon Fraser University. She has experience in healthcare and in the settlement field in BC.

Having worked with MOSAIC BC in various capacities, she currently oversees a large cluster of specialized programs that serve diverse communities and includes various programs, including MOSAIC BC health promotion programs.

Zarghoona is involved in several local and national partnerships including BC Health Coalition, Primary Care Network, PREV Net, Surrey Local Immigration Partnership, and the Resilience BC Anti-racism Network in Surrey. She is the Chair of the board of directors of Umbrella Multicultural Health Coop and is a Co-Chair of the Steering Committee at BC Health Coalition, Co-Chair of the Community Alliance of Racialized and Ethnocultural Services (CARES) for Equitable Health, member of the Local Leadership Table for Burnaby Primary Care Network and member of the BC Community Health Centers Partnership Table. Additionally, she is involved in advocacy for innovation in healthcare services to improve the quality and equity of the healthcare system.

Speakers for the event

FROOZAN JOOYA – Executive Director: Beacon of Hope

Froozan’s passion for non for profit sector is a direct result of her lived experiences as an Afghan- Canadian woman who desired to give back to her communities, both in her current home and her motherland.
Froozan has an extensive experience in community engagement, fundraising and advocacy work for Afghan women and children.
Froozan is the founder and Executive Director of Beacon of Hope for Afghan Children’s Society -a non-profit organization which provides financial, educational and medical supports to children in Afghanistan.
Froozan holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Social Work and a  master’s degree in Social Work from University of British Columbia.

As a humanitarian, Froozan believes in respect and equality for all and strongly advocates for Afghan children who are an integral part of society. She believes healthy development of children is crucial to the future well-being of any society.

FATIMA HAIDARI – Co-facilitator for the Survivors Advocate Training Program at VAST 

My name is Fatima Haidari (فاطمه حیدری); I was born in Afghanistan. My pronouns are she and her. I belong to the Hazara community, an ethnic group in Afghanistan. My ethnicity plays a huge role in my refugee journey and the fact that I had to leave my family behind at the age of 17. I am a former refugee; I settled in Turtle Island in 2015 when I was only 17 years old without my family. I have studied at Langara College for two years. Currently, I am studying a joint major in Criminology and Gender Studies at Simon Fraser University. I have worked and volunteered with different non-profit organizations in different capacities such as facilitator, co-facilitator, interpreter, and other roles. In my free time, I like to go hiking, biking, watch documentaries, comedy, and volunteering in community. I am passionate about social activism, refugee rights, Hazara history, advocacy, and giving back to the community in any way. My lived experiences as a former refugee brought me closer to the issues that impact refugees. In addition, I have a very special connection to nature, and land because I grew up in a village called Maknak Malistan in Ghanzi province.

GULALAI HABIB – Director: Settlement and Integration Programs – Burnaby Neighbourhood House

Working with displaced populations in Canada and abroad for over 25 years, Gulalai Habib is a former Program Officer with UNDP; experienced in community centred engagement in Central/South Asian regions; and involved with grassroots women’s mobilization and community organizing among displaced populations.

Since coming to Canada, she worked for over fourteen years with the Resettlement Assistance Program of ISSofBC, with direct oversight of the Syrian operation, and intimate involvement in the broader restructuring of Settlement sector spaces to include the lived expertise of refugee/migrant professionals. She went on in this capacity to cultivate a community-centred settlement vision, and currently serves as the Director of Settlement and Integration Programs at Burnaby Neighbourhood House; and sits on the Board of Directors of the National Women’s Economic Council.

A Brief Introduction to Afghanistan

Due to its geo-location, Afghanistan has been a hub of diverse cultures, prompting one historian to name it the ‘roundabout of the ancient world’. Afghanistan has at least 14 major ethnic groups, with some of the largest groups being Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Balochis, Nuristanis and Sadat.

Afghanistan’s borders were shaped mainly through processes of conflict and resistance similar to those in some of the European countries. It is also called a “graveyard of empires” by some. Afghans have lived through foreign invasions, civil war, insurgency and a previous period of oppressive Taliban rule. Afghanistan was never truly conquered because the remoteness of the land which makes it hard for an outsider to control.

During the 19th century, Afghanistan was caught up in the British-Russian power struggle known as ‘The Great Game’. Britain tried to bring Afghanistan under direct rule but suffered resounding defeat three times.

The last Anglo-Afghan war finished in 1919, and Britain recognized Afghanistan independence. King Amanullah Khan, who ruled for a decade starting in 1919, pushed for Western-style reforms intended to modernize the country. He introduced a new constitution that sought to guarantee equal rights (both for women and men). Child marriage was banned. Queen Soraya, who opened the first girl’s school in Kabul at that time, became a champion of women’s rights. These reforms were followed by a sharp conservative reaction.

More gradual modernization followed in the 1950s through the 1970s: education expanded among urban elites, significant numbers of Afghans went abroad for education and training, and some investments (most notably in transport) began to open the Afghan economy more to international trade.

The 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan granted women equal rights including universal right to vote and the right to run for office. They got jobs, ran businesses, and entered politics. Tensions with traditionalists never went away, but women protested any attacks on their rights. 

At the end of December 1979, the Soviet Union sent thousands of troops into Afghanistan and immediately assumed complete military and political control of Kabul and large portions of the country. They were faced with resistance from the West-backed jihadis which led to Soviet Union withdrawal in early 1989, leaving the country in ongoing conflicts between different fractions of jihadis, over 6 million Afghan refugees outside the country by early 90s, and a civil war that destroyed the capital, Kabul.

The mujaheddin era in 1990s and then Taliban era (until 2001) marked the dark period for Afghanistan. Ban on women and girls, excluded them from political life and all kinds of governance. 

Despite its impoverished status, the country is resource rich, with an abundance of coal, natural gas, copper, lithium, gold, iron ore, bauxite and prized rare-earth mineral reserves. An internal U.S. Department of Defense memo in 2010 reportedly described Afghanistan as “the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” meaning it could be as crucial for the global supply of the battery metal as the Arab country is for crude oil.
But Afghanistan remains a graveyard of resources.


The Canadian response – what the government promises

The government has announced special programs to resettle up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals to Canada:

  1. A special immigration program for Afghan nationals, and their families, who assisted the Government of Canada.
  2. A special humanitarian program focused on resettling Afghan nationals who are outside of Afghanistan and who don’t have a durable solution in a third country, which will include people such as: women leaders, human rights advocates, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals, journalists and people who assisted Canadian journalists

So far numbers are as follows (but changing constantly)

  1. Applications received (counted in persons): 13,300
  2. Applications approved (counted in persons): 9,500
  3. Persons arrived in Canada under the special programs: 2,300
  4. Persons now in destination community after quarantine: 1,800

Since U.S. and foreign forces left Afghanistan on August 31, two flights have departed Kabul with Canadians on board. One carrying 200 foreigners, including 43 Canadians, flew from Kabul to Doha Sept. 9. A second flight organized by Qatar carrying 10 Canadians departed Sept. 10.1


What’s happening in BC and how people can help.

Organizations supporting Afghans
Many Canadian and international organizations are working to support Afghans both at home and abroad and are seeking volunteers or donations.

  1. Women for Women International is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping female survivors of war. They have already reached their goal of $500,000 that will go directly towards an emergency response for women who have escaped Afghanistan and those still on the ground, but they say every donation will still help.
  2. Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan is a volunteer not-for-profit organization committed to educating and providing educational opportunities for women and girls in Afghanistan. Their recent emergency response project is accepting donations that will be used “to provide essentials in Afghanistan, from diapers and formula to food, water, and blankets.”
  3. In BC – BC4Afghans have developed locally relevant information, are gathering donations for families as they arrive and are connected with national campaigns to support Afghan refugees further.
  4. BC Refugee Hub have listed assistance and resources on their website:

Presented by MAP in partnership with:

MAP's In Focus Series

IN FOCUS is a MAP BC Information Working Group initiative designed to open public dialogue on important refugee claimant issues. The four-part online lecture series, open to everyone, ties local to international refugee claimant issues. IN FOCUS invites well known speakers to address issues of concern and converse directly with participants in open Q&A periods.