Afghan family separated for 7 years now reunited & starting new life in metro Detroit

Posted at 5:43 AM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 06:32:58-04

SOUTHGATE, Mich. (WXYZ) — During a chat in the Majedi family's Southgate kitchen, eldest daughter Soraya, 21, talked about dreams of working for Google; she recently graduated from college with a computer engineering degree.

Her younger sister, 19-year-old Saida, is completing medical school and looks forward to selecting a specialty.

It's a conversation that would have been a lot different just one month ago, when Soraya and Saida were living in Afghanistan with their father and six siblings. Their mother, Karima, has been in the U.S. since 2014.

Since Sept. 18, the family of 10 has been safely reunited in metro Detroit; but their journey here was difficult.

"Taliban, by force... if they told you that you are not allowed to go to university or school, it is difficult," Saida said of her future back in Kabul.

The Taliban has been the ruling government in Afghanistan since late August, following the U.S. troop withdrawal. The organization seized control of the capital city in a matter of days.

I asked Saida, who fled from the Hamid Karzai International Airport with her family just days before U.S. forces left, if there was ever fear she'd be unable to leave.

“Sometimes yes," she said.

Saida, Soraya, their father Arsallah and their six siblings arrived via Greyhound bus to metro Detroit after spending more than 20 days at a military base in New Jersey, by way of Washington D.C. and Bahrain.

Their emotional reunion at the Detroit bus station is saved on Soraya's phone.

The Majedi family in transit from Afghanistan to the U.S.

Arsallah is seen on video hugging his wife Karima, who's also seen deeply embracing each of her kids, including her youngest son Abubaker, who wasn't even 2 years old when they were separated.

"I had nothing to say," Soraya said of the moment she was reunited with her mother Karima. "I was just saying you’re my super woman."

The family spent seven years apart; a separation they didn't choose but felt was necessary for their own safety.

In 2014, Karima traveled to the U.S. from Afghanistan with a group of women for a business training. That trip, which did not have male chaperons, sparked outrage among local extremists.

“They warned my husband if I return back home I’d be killed or they’d harm me," Karima said. “They live inside the communities. And you didn’t know who is Taliban, who is not," she said.

Violent threats were also directed at Arsallah and the couple's children. They decided together that Karima would remain in the U.S. and seek asylum.

In 2018, Karima was granted asylum and started the process of applying to bring the rest of her family here.

“I was crying every day not only for my family but for my people," Karima told Action News.

She watched through a screen from thousands of miles away, as the Taliban toppled her country's government within days.

The Majedi family reunited after seven years.

“I love my country actually," Karima said. "Who changed the country actually is people."

Just one day before the Taliban seized control of the presidential palace, Arsallah and the kids finally received their visas for approval to enter the U.S. But getting to and then safely out of the Kabul airport in late August, was another major hurdle.

“I was beaten by Taliban. Several times," Arsallah said of his experience at the airport.

They saw firsthand the desperate attempts to flee that have since gone viral; videos of people clinging to cargo planes taking off from Kabul.

Arsallah and Karima, both old enough to remember Afghanistan before U.S. troops arrived, and old enough to remember the Taliban's first rise to power in the 1990s, knew that if the family didn't leave when they did, they risked not getting out at all; and that meant not being reunited.

Arsallah and the children spent three days at the Kabul airport before they walked onto a U.S. cargo plane. Then, after nearly a month in transit, spending most of that time at a military base in New Jersey, Karima's family arrived in metro Detroit in that Greyhound bus.

“I hugged them. And when they said “Mom” I heard that word after seven years, I couldn’t believe it," Karima said. "It wasn’t easy. It was not easy.” 

Abubaker now stands as tall as Karima's chin, as in enrolled in school in metro Detroit.

“She was crying, hugging every person," Arsallah said, sitting in the family's living room.

The Majedi family has loved ones, family, colleagues, and even Soraya's fiance still in Afghanistan.

According to the UNHCR, even before the Taliban's latest rise to power, more than 3.5 million Afghans have been forced to flee their homes due to insecurity and violence. An estimated 600,000 Afghans are newly displaced within their country this year.

Many Afghans seeking asylum have still not been able to leave the country.