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“Atmosphere of terror”: Refugee family shocked by violence in Surrey

July 21, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

Nisar Ahmad and his wife Shukria Azadzoi came to Canada in May after fleeing Afghanistan in search of a better life for their five children. But the first weeks in their new home country have been anything but peaceful.

Disturbing encounters with drug users on the streets surrounding their accommodations, and a brazen daylight shooting outside the window of their room at the Days Inn in Surrey that left the parking lot “red with blood,” have deeply shaken the family.

“My kids were discussing the murder for days,” said Ahmad.

Speaking through an interpreter, Ahmad said the family arrived on May 4 as refugees, their hearts full of gratitude and hope. The Afghan journalist, who had worked as a local contributor to The New York Times, began to receive death threats from the Taliban prior to the collapse of Afghan government in August, 2021.

Fearing for their lives, the family came to Canada as part of this country’s commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees. The family was placed by the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. at the Sandman Hotel in Surrey.

There were other refugees housed at the hotel, and Ahmad’s family began to make friends and familiarize themselves with the area. Then, on about May 20, Ahmad said immigrant services officials called his room and told the family they had an hour to pack their things and move.

“I was very shocked,” said Ahmad. “What had I done wrong? The other families weren’t being asked to move.”

Although he questioned the decision, Ahmad said the family complied.

After hurriedly throwing their belongings together, the family of seven was moved to two small rooms at the Days Inn near Gateway Station in Surrey.

Their first evening, the couple went to buy groceries at a nearby market, but Ahmad said they was verbally harassed by people who were living on the streets and openly using drugs. “We were walking toward the market and had to turn back,” said Ahmad. “It was very, very frightening.”

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