Since August 2021, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has worked around the clock to ensure Afghan families find safety in their new homes across the United States. In Salt Lake City, the IRC has welcomed over 500 Afghan evacuees to Utah since the end of September 2021, with another 150 individuals anticipated to arrive before the end of February. For many, the journey to Utah has been arduous, filled with unknowns and uncertainty.
Sediqullah and his brother (cousin), Ahmad, are two of the many individuals new to Salt Lake City. Until August 2021, the pair lived in Kabul; where Sediqullah worked to earn a degree in Business Administration in 2020. He had previously worked as an interpreter for U.S. forces in 2010. He looks back on his time working for the United States fondly, but had to leave his position in 2012 because of growing threats in his country: “The Taliban had been sending letters to my family, saying that if I did not leave my job, they would destroy my family and everything I had,” said Sediqullah. This was the first of many hard decisions he would have to make to keep his family safe.
When Sediqullah moved to Kabul, he arrived with his wife and three kids, propelling him to pursue his education. Only a year after he graduated, his country erupted in turmoil – a moment that will remain vivid in Sediqulla’s memory. “People knew that the Taliban was not good, but nobody expected them to come back into power. It shook every town. Our kids were so scared, nobody dared to leave their homes out of fear,” said Sediqullah.
Sediqullah immediately started reaching out to his contacts in the United States: anyone that could help him and his family escape Afghanistan. He and Ahmad brought their families to the airport, but each attempt failed. “The Taliban was restricting people trying to get through into the United States. Many people like me who had ties to the U.S. we getting beaten or even killed,” said Sediqullah. It was too dangerous for him to take his wife and kids through: armed men were marching through the airport, beating and shoving anyone who got in their way.
In their final attempt through the airport, Sediqullah, Ahmad, and their family made the impossible decision to separate, with both their wives and children staying behind. He knew that it would be safer for them if he was not there. “The Taliban hates the United States, but they hate Afghan citizens that work for [the U.S.] more,” he said. Sediqullah’s family made it home safe, and he and his brother managed to get onto an airplane bound for the U.S. However, as their adrenaline settled, they were struck by the grief of leaving their families behind, not knowing when they would see their loved ones again.
Sediqullah and Ahmad were separated states away from each other for months waiting to be processed for resettlement on a U.S. military base: one in Wisconsin, the other in Texas. They were finally able to reunite in Salt Lake City. As soon as the Sediqullah and Ahmad stepped off the plane, the IRC was able to begin providing support, ensuring temporary housing was available at a hotel and initial supplies were prepared. Although the two brothers are happy to be together again, this is just the beginning of figuring out life in the United States.
“This is your original country; we are what is new in it. If you were new to Afghanistan, we would help you. We would teach you what is right and wrong, everything you need to know. But here, we are blank, we do not know what we need to do,” Sediqullah related when asked how the community could help newly arrived Afghan evacuees. The brothers plan on spending the rest of their lives here in the United States: “I hope to bring our families here. To live and enjoy life. I want to begin a new and enjoyable life in the United States. That is my hope.”
After reflecting and sharing his story, Sediqullah closed by saying, “Everything that is happening in Afghanistan is real. We are happy to share our hurt because people need to know.”
The crisis in Afghanistan is ongoing, and remains a humanitarian crisis. The IRC in Salt Lake City continues to provide aid to incoming Afghan evacuees while helping those who have already arrived to settle into their new homes. Join us in supporting our newest neighbors by making a one-time gift or starting a monthly contribution to our Welcome Home Fund at Rescue.org/WelcomeHomeUtah »