An Afghan Family Immigration Story

Submitted by an anonymous MWEG member, edited by Mel Henderson

My husband was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, into a family that can trace its lineage directly to Muhammad. His family was politically active and vocal about it—unwelcome qualities in the social climate of the time. Two of his relatives became prominent political activists who were assassinated in the late 80s.

But even earlier, things were very dangerous. The Russian army invaded Afghanistan in the 70s and they had a hit list. My husband’s outspoken family became a target. The Russians intended to find, arrest, and execute every male in his family. This would send a message to others and “put an end” to his family bloodline. Before long, soldiers found and arrested my husband’s father and several uncles. They were imprisoned, mistreated, and scheduled for execution. My husband was only three years old at the time, but he, too, was on the hit list.

His mother knew that to save her child’s life, she would have to flee.

She tucked her son under her burqa and set out on foot for a long and dangerous trek, walking from Afghanistan to Pakistan under cover of night. In the daytime she hid in caves to avoid being seen. A woman traveling alone, unaccompanied by a man, would be arrested.

She eventually made it to Pakistan with her son and found her way to a refugee camp, where they would live in a shared tent and bathe with a hose. After a year in the camp, a miracle happened: Her husband had managed to escape execution and was able to join her in Pakistan. Opportunity and courage had converged one day at the prison, and he escaped underneath a truck. The family lived in the refugee camp in Pakistan while they waited for their application for political asylum in the United States to be granted.

About a year later, the family arrived in America with only $20 in their pockets. My father-in-law already had a relative in Utah—someone who had come to the United States on business years before and elected to stay—so they chose to relocate there. Because Utah’s Rocky Mountains and high desert resembles the topography of Afghanistan, it helped them feel at home. They knew they could start over here. Still, they were devastated to learn that every family member who stayed behind in Afghanistan was murdered.

My in-laws worked extremely hard to build a new life here. They never accepted government assistance. They loved this country and wanted to do all they could to contribute. They lived in gratitude and taught their son to do honorable work and live in gratitude, too.

My husband attended the University of Utah, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and then his law degree. Today, he is both a successful defense attorney and a successful novelist. In both careers, he is enacting his belief that everyone deserves a voice.

America was built by refugees and immigrants who sought refuge from the storm. My husband and his family came and made our country better. People like them bring their experience, wisdom, and insight. They work hard and raise families here. It is the spirit of welcoming and hope that made America a safe haven for those suffering from fear and persecution, and we are blessed for having them here.