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Photo essay: Afghan refugees start a new life in Calgary


Postmedia photographer Azin Ghaffari has spent several months documenting the arrival of families seeking refuge from Afghanistan

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It’s been one year since the Taliban launched a major offensive in Afghanistan, eventually gaining control of every major city in that country.

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The ousting of that country’s government, and reinstatement of oppressive rule, led to thousands of refugees fleeing the country with many, rightfully, fearing for their lives.

Refugees became newcomers in countries very foreign to them, including Canada. Hundreds have arrived in our city, with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society providing support and direction to the new arrivals. Postmedia Calgary visual journalist Azin Ghaffari spent time over the last several months with these new Calgarians to document their early lives in Calgary. Here are some of the photos she captured.

Afghan children, new to Canada, try out skating during a tour of Village Square Leisure Centre on March 15, 2022.
Afghan children, new to Canada, try out skating during a tour of Village Square Leisure Centre on March 15, 2022. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Tamana and her sister-in-law Mawlooda look at some traditional Afghan dresses in a shop in northeast Calgary on March 1. The two women, along with their family, are newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan.
Tamana and her sister-in-law Mawlooda look at some traditional Afghan dresses in a shop in northeast Calgary on March 1. The two women, along with their family, are newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Farzana, 4, Farzam Kabir and their parents arrive at Calgary International Airport after a flight from Afghanistan on Feb. 24. More than 300 Afghan refugees were welcomed by Calgary Catholic Immigration Society staff and volunteers.
Farzana, 4, Farzam Kabir and their parents arrive at Calgary International Airport after a flight from Afghanistan on Feb. 24. More than 300 Afghan refugees were welcomed by Calgary Catholic Immigration Society staff and volunteers. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
RCMP Cpl. Geordie Simpson assists the newly arrived refugees at Calgary International Airport.
RCMP Cpl. Geordie Simpson assists the newly arrived refugees at Calgary International Airport. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Hasana, 6, and her family arrive at Calgary International Airport.
Hasana, 6, and her family arrive at Calgary International Airport. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
With help by Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, more than 300 Afghan refugees are processed at the airport.
With help by Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, more than 300 Afghan refugees are processed at the airport. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Avesta Nikpey, 4, poses for a photo as her family moves to their first home in Calgary on March 4.
Avesta Nikpey, 4, poses for a photo as her family moves to their first home in Calgary on March 4. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Ali Zahid Nikpey, 6, celebrates his family’s moving day by jumping on the bed as his mom Maria sorts their luggage in their first home in Calgary on March 4.
Ali Zahid Nikpey, 6, celebrates his family’s moving day by jumping on the bed as his mom Maria sorts their luggage in their first home in Calgary on March 4. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Najiullah Sadiq sorts through belongings as he and family members move into their new home in northeast Calgary on March 1 after arriving from Kabul.
Najiullah Sadiq sorts through belongings as he and family members move into their new home in northeast Calgary on March 1 after arriving from Kabul. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Siblings Tamana and Najiullah Sadiq sort through their belongings in their new home on March 1.
Siblings Tamana and Najiullah Sadiq sort through their belongings in their new home on March 1. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Sheila Qayumi hugs her son Edris Qayumi after he arrives at Calgary International Airport with his family on May 2. Sheila, who worked at the Centre for Equality for Peace and Democracy in Kabul, had fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. She has reunited with her son after more than eight months.
Sheila Qayumi hugs her son Edris Qayumi after he arrives at Calgary International Airport with his family on May 2. Sheila, who worked at the Centre for Equality for Peace and Democracy in Kabul, had fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. She has reunited with her son after more than eight months. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Edris Qayumi takes a selfie with his wife Soman Qayumi, their 10-month-old son Hamza and Edris’s mother Sheila Qayumi.
Edris Qayumi takes a selfie with his wife Soman Qayumi, their 10-month-old son Hamza and Edris’s mother Sheila Qayumi. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Dancers perform Attan, a traditional Afghan dance, at the Eid Al-Fitr celebration held by the Afghan Society of Calgary on May 5. For many refugees in Calgary, this is their first Eid away from their home country after fleeing Afghanistan.
Dancers perform Attan, a traditional Afghan dance, at the Eid Al-Fitr celebration held by the Afghan Society of Calgary on May 5. For many refugees in Calgary, this is their first Eid away from their home country after fleeing Afghanistan. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
A group of Afghan refugees arrive at Calgary International Airport on Feb. 24.
A group of Afghan refugees arrive at Calgary International Airport on Feb. 24. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Ali Zahid Nikpey, 6, poses for a photo as his family gets ready to move out of their temporary accommodation at Amenida Hotel on March 4. The family is preparing to move to their new home in Calgary.
Ali Zahid Nikpey, 6, poses for a photo as his family gets ready to move out of their temporary accommodation at Amenida Hotel on March 4. The family is preparing to move to their new home in Calgary. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, finds two-year-olds Lala, front, and Bibitahebah hanging out behind a couch as the minister pays a visit to the CCIS staff and clients at Amenida Hotel on March 8.
Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, finds two-year-olds Lala, front, and Bibitahebah hanging out behind a couch as the minister pays a visit to the CCIS staff and clients at Amenida Hotel on March 8. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
With assistance from Calgary Catholic Immigration Society staff and volunteers, Afghan refugees receive winter clothing at the Calgary International Airport on Dec. 16, 2021.
With assistance from Calgary Catholic Immigration Society staff and volunteers, Afghan refugees receive winter clothing at the Calgary International Airport on Dec. 16, 2021. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Rohanya Burhan, 4, rushes to open the door of the Best Western Hotel where she and her family will stay for the duration of their COVID-19 quarantine on Jan. 11.
Rohanya Burhan, 4, rushes to open the door of the Best Western Hotel where she and her family will stay for the duration of their COVID-19 quarantine on Jan. 11. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Newly arrived Afghan refugees enter the Best Western Hotel for their COVID-19 quarantine on Jan. 11.
Newly arrived Afghan refugees enter the Best Western Hotel for their COVID-19 quarantine on Jan. 11. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of services to immigrants and refugees. They have been actively involved with helping those who fled Afghanistan and landed in Calgary. More information on the society is at https://www.ccisab.ca/



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