A world away... Afghan families seek refuge in Toowoomba

Wazir Begum Sultan comforts her children Shagufa, 8, Masooma Husaini, 18, Madina, 10 and Talib, 12.
Wazir Begum Sultan comforts her children Shagufa, 8, Masooma Husaini, 18, Madina, 10 and Talib, 12. Bev Lacey

TALIB Abdul Khaliq was walking home from school when a water tank packed with a massive bomb exploded only five minutes away from him.

The 12-year-old was covered in glass from the February 16 blast, which killed almost 90 people and injured 170 when it ripped through a market in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Yesterday, Talib was smiling and laughing as he and his sisters Madina, 10 and Shagufa, 8, played with a camera at Toowoomba City Library.

Their mother Wazir Begum Sultan and older sister Masooma Abdul Khalif, 18, were busy explaining their impressions of their first two weeks of Toowoomba life.

The Abdul Khalifs are one of five Afghan families, of Hazara descent, who have moved to Toowoomba in the past month on a Women at Risk Visa.

Wazir Begum Sultan, 32, explained through an interpreter how her family fled the war in Afghanistan to travel to Pakistan 15 years ago.

Newly arrived Afgan refugee families Talib, 12, Shagufa, 8 and Madina, 10, visit the library as part of the supported program of getting to know their new country.
Newly arrived Afgan refugee families Talib, 12, Shagufa, 8 and Madina, 10, visit the library as part of the supported program of getting to know their new country. Bev Lacey

Her husband died of a heart attack four years ago, leaving her to look after her four children.

A year after applying through the United Nations for the Women at Risk Visa program, she found herself en route to Toowoomba.

"I only want to learn English and support my children to learn to do something big for this country," she said through an interpreter.

Multicultural Development Association Toowoomba regional manager Leah Percival said the new arrivals would link with a small community of long-term residents of Afghan descent.

"They are a wealth of knowledge," Miss Percival said.

"We have got more families in the pipeline."



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