Help Masiha call Canada Home
Together with Bruno Lettieri and BRASA, Jess is helping her friend, Mahsiha, resettle in Canada. The Canadian government requires funds to sponsor refugees so we're looking for your help with donations and fundraising. Visit Masiha's Chuffed site to learn more and make a donation.
From Masiha: This is my story so far. It explains how I ended up living where I am now. Like many refugee stories, it has its fair share of hardship so please read with caution. It was easier to write in the third person. My English was developing when I wrote this, but I’ve left it as it is. For some reason that feels important.
Masiha was born on the cold day of December 15, 1988 and was raised in a simple village of Tamaki, in the province of Ghazni, Afghanistan. His father, Jumah Khan was an architect. He traded woods for constructions and by his track he provides for his family through this vocation. That is, until the Taliban had arrested him during one of the uprising against the cruel regime in Kandahar province (1998). His father had managed to escape from the Talibans and fled to Iran. Under the Taliban rule, provinces where the Hazara people lived where closed off and one of the provinces is Ghazni. Jumah Khan found it difficult to send money back home and his family suffered through those difficult times.
Meanwhile, Masiha started his elementary education in 1994, despite the hardships under the Taliban rule. It was his father who always inspired and encouraged Masiha to learn. Even during the winter season, he sent Masiha to Kabul to extend his learning. He continued on to high school and when he was on his 11th and 12th grade, he taught the lower grades due to the lack of teachers in their village. He graduated on the year 2006.
Masiha pursued higher education in two universities simultaneously. He acquired two bachelor's degrees in Social Science and Political Science in International Relations from Kabul University and Khatamunabeen University respectively. Masiha is always grateful for the support and encouragement from his father during his studies.
After he graduated, Masiha worked as a librarian in Khatamunabeen University, then he worked for the presidential campaign of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzi in 2014. He was part of the creative committee of national policy at central office for Ahmadzi's campaign. He continued working for him up to the second campaign in which Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzi raced against Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. This time, he served in the campaign from his hometown, Tamaki.
However, after the campaign period was over, Masiha decided to permanently lay aside his career in the political circle and join his father in the oil and gas business. He determined it to be the best decision to pursue since his father was struggling alone in the business. Masiha was looking forward to carrying on his father's business and settle himself down in his hometown. It was a life he already determined for himself. However, on August 23, 2014 everything changed.
It was a usual business trip to Ghazni City. He was on his way to purchase oil and gas to be delivered back to his hometown in Tamaki. But unknown to him, someone had informed the Taliban about his trip to Ghazni through Zardalow – Dashti Qarabargh, and the Taliban successfully intercepted him at a place called Pai Qool.
They made the driver stop the taxi he was riding. The taxi driver was forced to sit with him at the back of the car and the Taliban proceeded to cover their eyes with scarves and tied their hands behind their back.
As they drove the taxi, the Taliban started accusing Masiha of many things. They accused him of changing his name to Masiha because he is a Christian and called him a kafir (irreligious; also, a term they use for Hazara people who are of the Islamic Shiite sect, or someone who has converted to Christianity). They also talked about him working for the government, having taken part in Ashraf Ahmadzi's presidential campaign. And somehow, they also had information of him having contact with a 'foreign stranger'. They accused him of it.
Masiha indeed have been around a non-government organization called International Assistance Mission (IAM) as he was learning the English language with them.
Masiha tried to defend himself against their accusations but they did not listen and they beat him with their guns instead. They brought him somewhere, still was blindfolded and handcuffed. They beat him there and when he fell down, he thought he was brought into some kind of a garden.
After they were satisfied with beating him, they brought him into a house and locked him there for two days, with his hands still tied behind his back and his eyes still covered. They didn't give him food, just water.
It was two days after, at midnight that a woman uncovered his eyes and unbound his hands. Then calmly, she told him to run in her language (Pashtu). He ran to the mountains and that was probably around 1 or 2 in the morning.
When the sun had risen, he walked all the way down to Gowmorda and it took him many hours. From there he rode a motorcycle to Anguri with the help his relative. From Anguri, he took another route to Kabul with money from his relative, riding in a Saracha (a private utility vehicle) along with other passengers.
While Masiha was in the hands of the Taliban, they took pictures of him and sent them to his family on the 2nd day of his capture, August 24. They demanded $50,000 USD in exchange for his release. His father, Jumah Khan, agreed and gave them a partial amount, begging them not to kill his son. As for the rest of the money, he asked them to give him a little more time. His father did not know by then that he escaped and was already in Kabul.
On the afternoon of the 25th of August, Masiha called his father from Kabul. Jumah Khan knew then that his son had already escaped from the Taliban. He immediately looked for a way to get his son out of the country. He found a smuggler and the smuggler demanded some money to be sent illegally to another country. He gave him 5,000 US dollars in exchanged for an escape to Indonesia.
Masiha got out of Afghanistan on the 28th of August and went to Dehli by airplane. He continued on to Kuala Lumpur and from there he traveled on to Indonesia, this time he traveled by boat. His passport and other identification items were taken by the smuggler because it will put him at risk of being deported back to Afghanistan. He arrived in Indonesia on the 5th of September.
Stepping onto a foreign land, Masiha had no idea how to get to the immigration office and he didn’t know how to talk in Bahasa Indonesia at all. Thankfully, a driver that fetched him from the sea-port offered him a night's stay in his home. The next day, he drove Masiha to Pekanbaru airport in an attempt to smuggle his way into Jakarta. However, the police caught him and found him undocumented. They questioned him for about an hour and then transported him back to the city on a bus.
Back in the city, Masiha didn't know what to do. He didn't know where to go. He and his companion (also an Afghan refugee) walked and walked all around the city from morning until night. Then, at around 8 pm, a random stranger approached them. It was an Indonesian student who knew how to speak English. He asked Masiha where they were going and Masiha answered that they were looking for the immigration office. The student kindly hailed a taxi for them and told the driver to bring Masiha and his companion to the immigration.
It was Sunday at that time and the government offices were closed. Masiha and his friends had to wait until the next day. They slept on the cold ground in front of immigration, having no other choice because hotels would not accept illegal immigrants.
When morning came, the immigration office did open, but Masiha and his companion were not given the asylum they sought. It was due to the unavailability of boarding houses they had for asylum seekers. They had to spend two more weeks sleeping on the hard ground in front of the immigration office, under the rain, with no pillows, blankets or whatsoever.
Finally, they were admitted into one of the boarding houses. Masiha stayed there for about three months, teaching English to other immigrants and sometimes interpreting for them. He thought he was already settling down there.
However, after those three months, he was transferred to a detention center. He was informed that it was required for all asylum seekers and he was only going to stay there for another six months.
It turned out that it was the beginning of one of the hardest times in Masiha's life. He was congested in a 4-person room with eight other asylum seekers. The room was so hot all the time and they were not allowed to go out for 90 days. Masiha thought his suffering was finally over when they let them out of the room after the 90-day mark. However, they were only given permission to go out to the grounds of the detention center and they are to be locked up again for the next 90 days. This routine of being locked up for three whole months and being let out for only a day continued on for three years. He decided to use that time to be an English teacher to his roommates.
After three years, Masiha was transferred to a community house. It became his home up to this day. He now spends his time learning with online classes and improving his English and computer skills.
Masiha now lives in better conditions, compared to when he first came, and he is grateful for all the help he has received. But in his heart, he cannot be satisfied with living as a refugee all his life. He doesn't have freedom to choose a better life for himself. He can't find a job, can't go any further from the borders of Pekanbaru City and can't even spend a night with his friends outside of the community center. He thinks of his father, who passed away in 2019, and all the things Jumah Khan wanted for his son. Just one shot in being able to ride through the freer highway of life is what Masiha hopes for.