By Adrienne Morton //
World Relief Durham had the privilege of welcoming and resettling an Afghan family of seven this past July, providing housing, school enrollment and support for the children, employment services, health care coordination, and other wraparound services that help them begin rebuilding their lives in Durham. Husband and father Shir Khan Shirzad recently shared some of his family’s story of moving from Afghanistan to Durham.
After graduating from high school in Afghanistan, Shir Khan Shirzad began working in a small grocery store to support himself and his family. Knowing that going to university wouldn’t be financially viable, he worked as a grocer until the United States forces arrived and began employing Afghans in various roles supporting the military operation.
In 2004, Shir Khan was introduced to his next employer—the U.S. military—after his nephew secured a job as an interpreter. His initial job was as an entry-level laborer supporting the U.S. military, but he worked hard and moved his way up to become head of all labor workers in a particular region.
Having worked for the U.S. government, Shir Khan knew that his safety would be at risk should the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan. He recruited an English-speaking friend to help him begin the arduous process of submitting documents required for a Special Immigrant Visa. Shir Khan did not speak or read English, but he eventually taught himself enough to complete the first step of the process—the paperwork. It would be years before his case was processed, but he eventually secured an interview with the U.S. embassy in 2018. Even then his visa did not come through until 2021. He, his wife Fazila, and their five children arrived in Durham in July.
It has now been several months since Shir Khan left his house, country, job, brothers, sisters, nephews, culture—his home. When asked how he is getting along thus far in the U.S. he said, “me and my family are safe … it will take time for example, to know the culture, rules, everything about America.” Nonetheless, “we are still sad thinking about home … I don’t know how long it will take for us, living so far from our families in Afghanistan.”
Shir Khan struggled to find the words to sufficiently express his depth of sadness for the Afghan people. “[They are] innocent people, young people, not only for my family … I’m worried about all people there because Afghan people [have been] suffering for a long time. It seems endless for Afghan people.”
When asked how Americans can best support him and the Afghan people, he was quick to respond: “I just want peace in Afghanistan. They are suffering all of the time … just bring peace.”
Photo “Northwestern Afghanistan” by koldo hormaza, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0