My life entirely changed on Oct. 16, 2014, when I was forced to flee my country of Afghanistan and become a refugee. At the time, I was 18 years old. 

I’m from the Hazara ethnicity of Afghanistan. Our people have faced massacre, migration, forced displacement, and even enslavement in Afghanistan for a century and a half.

Being a refugee wasn’t my choice. The Taliban kidnapped me and I escaped. I fled to Indonesia hoping to be rescued, and dreaming of a safer, better, brighter future. 

Qayum has been a refugee in Indonesia for the past eight years

When I arrived in Indonesia, I was put in a detention centre for three years. Day by day, time passed. I realized that while my life was saved, I’d been trapped physically, mentally, and spiritually. My crime was fleeing war, discrimination, injustice, insecurity, and genocide. After I was released, I learned that I’m not allowed to study, work, travel, or live a normal life in Indonesia. After understanding and accepting my situation, I decided to do positive things despite the many challenges. When I was in the detention centre, I started learning English. When I got out, I started learning the Indonesian language. I teach English to refugee kids on a volunteer basis, and sometimes I lend my skills as a translator to other refugees in the hospital. Learning languages, reading books, and doing exercises enabled me to live an easier life. 

Still, I’m a stateless refugee that no one wants. I belong to nowhere. The dreams that I had, the enthusiasm that I had, and the hopes that I had were all destroyed in the refugee world. 

I live a wishful life as a refugee. Every day and every second, I wish my country was a safe place to live. I wish I wasn’t a refugee. I wish I could study and achieve my goals and dreams. I wish I could live freely like a normal human. Among all these wishes there’s a sad and bitter wish that hurts me all the time, and that’s wishing not to die as a refugee. 

In the past eight years in Indonesia, many refugees have died. Many committed suicide, and others died due to stress, depression, and hopelessness. Witnessing my friends dying made me more and more hopeless. My life became a gradual death after living in uncertainty for years. 

Days, months, and years passed and nothing changed about my future. The pain that I have as a refugee isn’t a simple physical pain, but a pain that’s poisoned my mind, my physical body, my heart, and my soul. 

Refugees protest their nine-year detention

Many months ago, I met a group of five Canadians. When they told me they’d sponsor me to live in Canada, my world changed.

I feel like a light of hope has been lit inside me. It gives me power every day. It recharges me like a dying battery. I was losing hope and disappointment was making me die inside. But my sponsors didn’t let that happen. They extended their helping hand in the ocean where I was drowning in disappointment and hopelessness. They have enlightened my life, giving me hope. Now I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic.

For a human being, nothing’s more powerful than hope. Hope captures our soul and our whole being and pulls us out of the deep well in which we thought we were almost dead and would never see light again. Hope returns us to the path of life. My sponsors are the reason I can see the light once again. 

I’m extremely happy that the Canadian government and the dear people of Canada are giving me the opportunity to see the light once again. And I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart.

Once I get resettled, I’ll choose a lovely place to live in the countryside so I can plant trees. I want to plant 100 trees every year with my own hands for as long as I’m alive, because I truly love nature.

With respect to lovely and honourable Canadians.

Qayum Sultani wants to plant 100 trees every year.

Qayum is an Afghan refugee who has been stranded in Indonesia for nearly 10 years. A group of Alberta Avenue residents recently applied to sponsor him through Canada’s private sponsorship program. His arrival date is uncertain, but eagerly awaited.