Hazara refugees find community, hope during event on campus

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More than 300 Hazara refugees came to BYU on Feb. 12 for the School of Communications’ first event coordinated with the Utah Hazara Association. (Hailey Deeds)

More than 300 Hazara refugees came to BYU on Feb. 12 for the School of Communications’ first event coordinated with the Utah Hazara Association.

The event included a presentation on the history of Utah and the Latter-day Saint faith. Advertising senior Kendelle Cragun helped with the organization of the presentations.

She said as they were creating the event, they felt there were a lot of similarities between the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the persecution the Hazara ethnic group from Afghanistan is facing.

“Culture and religion have shaped our lives, our community, and it was going to be something they were going to learn about as they spend more time in Utah. We wanted them to have a preface and as well as understand how we can relate to them,” Cragun said.

Mohammad Hassan Omid recently arrived in Utah on Jan. 19. He said he didn’t know much about the Church until the sister missionaries visited his home and gave him a copy of The Book of Mormon.

“The presentation was great. All the people got good information about Mormons and communities in Utah,” Omid said.

Following the presentation, the School of Communications students took Hazara refugees on a tour of the campus, which included the Bean Life Science Museum, Wilkinson Student Center, Harold B. Lee Library and Harris Fine Arts Center.  

“Coming from a country where women are not allowed to get education, and then having the opportunity to go into a big university’s library is a huge motivation to these guys and one that they will carry throughout their lives,” said Ghazanfar Ali, founder of the Utah Hazara Association.

Masoma Mohammadi, 16, has been in the Midvale area for over two years. Mohammadi said since she was in 7th grade, she has had hopes to go to a university in the future to become a pilot.

Mohammadi said she feels like she can go to school in the United States, but is sad for her friends back in Afghanistan where many women are taught to stay home, learn to cook and take care of the children. 

“It’s so hard for them. When you talk with them on the phone, they are crying. They say they want to go to school, but we cannot,” Mohammadi said. 

Mohammadi’s move to the United States was difficult due to leaving her friends and family. Her father works for the U.S. Army and was no longer safe in Afghanistan. However, Mohammadi has enjoyed her time in Utah and the students at her school. 

“They are good people, they don’t care if I wear a (scarf). Because some people don’t like this. They don’t want to talk with you. They don’t want to be friends,” Mohammadi said. “But here all the people are good. They are friends; all of them. They don’t care about your religion or culture. They just want to be friends.”

Students and staff of the School of Communications served the Hazara refugees BYU creamery brownies and ice cream after the tour of campus.

“The main part of the United States and Utah that is beautiful for us, is the kindness of the people. They supported us, helped us, supported me and my family,” Omid said. 

Omid said he hopes to attend many more future events put on by the Utah Hazara Association and the School of Communications.

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