By Hassan El-Cheikh
The American immigrant story is one many have heard before. Individuals throughout history have left their home countries to escape oppression, religious persecution and more to start a new life.
Now, the Hazara community from Afghanistan is a part of that story.
Coming to a land where no one speaks their native language or understands their culture can be difficult for refugees, but the Utah Hazara Association and BYU are helping to make that transition a little easier.
Members of the Hazara community gathered in the Gordon B. Hinckley Visitors’ Center alongside students and faculty to learn about navigating the American education system on Nov. 4.
Education is one of the many elements of Afghan life that was taken away from their community after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.
“Fifty-eight other girls had big dreams for their lives, but Taliban put that to ashes,” Ghazanfar Ali, social media director of the Utah Hazara Association, said.
The Hazara youth have dreams and career goals, some since they were kids.
“Ever since I was little, people would ask me, ‘What do you want to be, like when you grow up?’” Hazara youth Mehdia Muhammdi said. “I would be, like, a doctor.”
But getting to the U.S. did not mean that their journey was over. Many Hazara youth faced challenges when they first came.
“The first state I came here was California and the language was the hardest part,” Hazara youth Mehdi Muhammadi said. “I didn’t know anything.”
The Utah Hazara Association is helping refugees by providing translation assistance, housing and food stamps.
The event ended with traditional Afghan food like hummus and beef kebab, along with popular Hazara music.
While the Hazara community in the U.S. still has a long road ahead, their experience with learning how to endure hard things is what has made them such a remarkable people.