Nargis and six of her family members arrived in Edmonton in January 2022. The 17-year-old fled Kabul with her three brothers, sister in law and parents when Kabul fell to the Taliban in August 2021.
“I was writing my last exam,” Nargis recalled. “It was Tuesday and Wednesday would be the last day of my exams. On Tuesday, we all were writing our exam and teacher (said): ‘We’re leaving. No matter how many questions you already answered, just leave it and go home safe.’”
It was chaos, Nargis said. Everything happened so fast.
“We actually couldn’t believe that Taliban might have taken over Kabul, because no one believed that they might take over the capital of the country.”
Thousands of Afghans who helped Canada still stuck under Taliban rule
As she left school that day, Nargis couldn’t help but think about her education and her future.
“My mother told me that about 20 years ago, in the time of Taliban, girls were not allowed to go to school. But I never could believe that because I thought: ‘This is the 21st Century!’
“When I went home, it was the last day I saw my school. It was the last day I saw my friends.”
In just hours, Nargis and some of her family packed essentials and left.
“Nothing was normal,” she said. “People were wandering around the city, but there was nowhere to escape.”
Her family took a bus and then walked to cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. As part of the Hazara ethnic minority, the family felt particularly at risk.
Nargis’ older sibling is also a prominent human rights defender.
“For the first 20 days (in Pakistan) I didn’t talk, I only cried,” Nargis said. “We had nowhere to go and no hope. I was so afraid. When we found out we were accepted to come to Canada, it was the first time I had hope again.”