Cork welcome for midwife and her family who fled the Taliban

'I am so happy,' says Nooria Faizi after Government gives her family a visa waiver, and Cork man offers them a place to live
Cork welcome for midwife and her family who fled the Taliban

Hurling meets cricket as Josh Roxburgh, Louis McCoy, Harry McCoy, and sisters Zoe and Mia Roxburgh welcome Emran, Arafat, and Mohammad Abas Faizi to the neighbourhood in Waterfall, Co Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

Being a midwife was a matter of pride for Nooria Faizi, and it was an integral part of who she was as a person.

But when the US withdrawal from Afghanistan took place last August, the subsequent Taliban takeover from the western-backed Afghan government plunged Nooria and her family into a nightmare where their lives were threatened because of the work both she and her husband Arif were doing.

Arif was a soldier who worked alongside Americans, while Nooria had travelled throughout the country and across Taliban-controlled areas to provide reproductive health education and care to Afghan women in her role as a midwife. 

Nooria and Mohammed Arif Faizi had to flee Afghanistan with Emran (8) Arafat (10) and Mohammad Abas (14) when the Taliban took over. The family was accommodated in a reception centre in Clonea, Waterford, before Colm Brosnan welcomed them to his home in Ballinora/Waterfall, Co Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins
Nooria and Mohammed Arif Faizi had to flee Afghanistan with Emran (8) Arafat (10) and Mohammad Abas (14) when the Taliban took over. The family was accommodated in a reception centre in Clonea, Waterford, before Colm Brosnan welcomed them to his home in Ballinora/Waterfall, Co Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

However, when the Taliban took control, the work Nooria did made her a target for them, as she was working with US-funded international healthcare agency JHPIEGO.

Now, Nooria, Arif, and their three sons have managed to secure a visa waiver and a place on the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, allowing them to come to Ireland. 

Their case was pursued by Green Party councillor in Cork, Oliver Moran, with the support of friends of the family living in Cork following the seizing of power by the Taliban.

This traditional cooking pot is one of the few household items the Faizi family managed to bring with them as they fled Kabul. They are now being hosted by Colm Brosnan in Ballinora/Waterfall Co Cork and the children have started school locally. Picture: Larry Cummins
This traditional cooking pot is one of the few household items the Faizi family managed to bring with them as they fled Kabul. They are now being hosted by Colm Brosnan in Ballinora/Waterfall Co Cork and the children have started school locally. Picture: Larry Cummins

The Faizis are now living with Corkman Colm Brosnan in Waterfall since last Wednesday. 

Mr Brosnan, who has been living alone since the death of his wife, offered to put them up for the next year after hearing their story from friends. 

With the help of an interpreter, a tearful Nooria said she has been a midwife since 2008 and she is devastated at the loss of her career.

“All my education and all my service came to an end when the Taliban took over,” Ms Faizi said. 

She told the Irish Examiner that the family’s last days in their home in Kabul were frightening as the Taliban targeted them.

“The situation was pretty bad after the withdrawal of the US. Anyone with government jobs could not go to their jobs anymore, especially women," she said. 

Schools were shut down for boys and girls, but they were reopened again for boys, not for girls.

She recalled members of the Taliban calling to their home in Kabul threatening their lives. 

“They physically came to our house and threatened me. Luckily my husband was not there. They tried to find him but could not and so they came back another day.” 

After more than one such visit, the family knew they either had to leave their home or stay there and risk death.

Nooria said they left everything behind, including their home, their car, and members of their families, adding: “We just had to flee the country. We had to run for safety. 

"We knew the threat to us was severe. We did not want any harm to come to our children.” 

Fleeing from Kabul

After fleeing their home, the Faizis relied on friends to put them up as they made their way across Afghanistan and into Pakistan; they stayed first in safe houses around Kabul before making the long journey to Pakistan.

The family's friend Mary Pappin, who lives in Cork, said: “The family travelled to Pakistan using false identification and the Taliban held them overnight. 

"The Taliban border guards woke their seven-year-old son in the early hours of the morning to interrogate him but fortunately he was able to recall the family’s cover story and they were allowed to cross into Pakistan the following day.” 

Nooria became upset recalling the memory of her son’s interrogation and is grateful that the entire family is now safely in Cork. 

They had pretended to be with the Red Cross on their way into Pakistan and spent some time there before continuing their journey to Ireland.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammed Abas Faizi is a keen cricketer and hopes to play again soon. His siblings — eight-year-old Emran and 10-year-old Arafat — started school on Friday. Picture: Larry Cummins
Fourteen-year-old Mohammed Abas Faizi is a keen cricketer and hopes to play again soon. His siblings — eight-year-old Emran and 10-year-old Arafat — started school on Friday. Picture: Larry Cummins

The Faizis arrived in Ireland in mid-November and were living in Clonea in Waterford in a reception centre with their three sons until moving in with Colm Brosnan on Wednesday.

The couple’s younger sons, 10-year-old Mohammad Arafat and seven-year-old Mohammad Emram, started school on Friday in Ballinora. The family are still trying to secure a school place for their eldest son, 14-year-old Mohammad Abas.

Arif and Nooria are also studying — learning English in the hope of being able to find jobs and settle in Ireland.

“I am so happy. I am very, very happy here," Nooria said. "Thanks to the Irish Government for granting us a visa and to the people who helped us, including Colm who is hosting us. He is a good man. 

“Even though we do not know the language of the Irish people, we feel we are at home. The only problem is the Irish accent.” 

We want to integrate into the community and our focus is on that.

Her interpreter and friend, Bilal Nasiri, said that Nooria has three brothers and one sister left in Afghanistan while Arif also has siblings there. Both also have nephews and nieces and other extended family members left behind.

Nooria’s brothers are also under threat from the Taliban and she is hopeful that they too will be able to seek refuge in Ireland. She said her siblings and her extended family are well educated and worked for the Afghan government before the Taliban take-over.

Bilal explained: “Everyone who worked for the previous government is under threat.” 

Nooria is heartbroken for her nieces who studied hard in order to have professions but now have to stay at home because they cannot work under the Taliban.

“It was so hard for girls to go away from home and study," she said.

"Now they are back stuck at home and cannot work. They are left behind with nothing." 

I do not know how much hope is there but I hope the Irish government will be able to help my family.

On Friday, the Taliban issued a decree on women's rights outlining that women should not be considered "property" and cannot be forced into marriage. However, the decree did not elaborate on women’s access to education or employment.

Under the last Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, women’s rights were severely hampered; they had to wear burqas, and were only allowed to leave their home if accompanied by a male chaperone.

Late last month, Amnesty International called on the international community to stand by its long-term commitment to support women’s rights in Afghanistan.

A gofundme campaign has been set up to raise funds for basic necessities such as clothes, footwear and food, according to Mary Pappin. More than €5,000 has already been donated to the campaign.

Donations can be made here to help the family. 

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