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Their son escaped Kabul without them. Now an Afghan family is safe in Kansas City — without him

The Karim Yar family on the porch of their new home in Kansas City. (left to right) Qasim Rahimi, a journalist who helped the family reconnect with their son, Nasiba, Nasrin, Jawhar Gul Ahmadi, Abdul Rahim, Abdul Rahman, and Mohammad Musa.
Frank Morris
/
KCUR
The Karim Yar family on the porch of their new home in Kansas City, with Qasim Rahimi (far left), a journalist who helped the family reconnect with their son. Next to Rahimi, from left: Nasiba, Nasrin, Jawhar Gul Ahmadi, Abdul Rahim, Abdul Rahman, and Mohammad Musa.

Facing genocide in Afghanistan, a family of Hazara refugees settled in Kansas City. But they remain separated from their son, who helped bring them here under the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrant’s Family Reunification program.

Four young, slender children joyfully tossed and kicked a tiny soccer ball on the porch of a small, 100-year-old bungalow in a high crime area at 56th Street and Brooklyn Avenue. It was the Fourth of July, and thunderous illegal fireworks shook the walls.

Each blast drew a nervous, probing look from the father, reminding him of battles he fought in Afghanistan. But he’s glad to be here, because here he feels safe.

“This is a happy day for me,” Mohammed Musa Karim Yar said through an interpreter. “It is because if someone is coming from a jail and he felt a real freedom he should feel happy.”

The jail he’s talking about was his home country. He and his family are members of Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic minority, which has been attacked, persecuted and oppressed for generations. The Taliban stepped up terrorist killings of Hazara people since taking total control of the country in 2021.

Karim Yar and his family landed in Kansas City a few days before July 4th and were immediately struck by the lush vegetation here.

“When I arrived here I saw a beautiful city, especially with a lot of green areas. Green and clean area, clean city, everything looks natural,” he said.

Besides processing at a United States Air Force base in Qatar and a layover in Chicago, it’s the first place they’ve set foot in a country that is not actively out to get them.

“We completely feel that you're safe here, because the U.S. government is supporting us,” said Karim Yar.

Children playing on a porch. 4-year old Nasrin Karin Yar playing with her brother Abdul Rahman and sister Nasiba
Four-year-old Nasrin Karin Yar playing with her brother Abdul Rahman and sister Nasiba.

Karim Yar, his wife, and four younger children are in Kansas City because his oldest son, Mustafa, managed to get on a plane out of Kabul during the chaotic collapse of the government there. Mustafa was only 7 years old at the time, and it’s not clear how he did it.

But Qasim Rahimi, an Afghan journalist who was also fleeing the country, says Mustafa approached him when they were both awaiting resettlement at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

“He said, ‘I came here only by myself from Afghanistan, nobody's here from my family. Can you help me?’ I said, ‘Yes, I can help,’” Rahimi said.

The boy didn’t know his parents' phone number, but he did know where they lived. Rahimi put up a social media post, and within a month the child was in touch with his family, stuck under an oppressive government 7,000 miles away.

The boy became a sort of human grappling hook tying his family to the United States. With lots of help from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrant’s Family Reunification program, they eventually got Special Immigrant Visas to immigrate here to join their daring boy.

Mustafa, meanwhile, had been placed with a foster family in California.

There was another problem: No one in the family had a passport. The Taliban gouges passport applicants, and Karim Yar said he had to sell the small farm he inherited from his father to cover the exorbitant fees. So, the family has nothing to return to in Afghanistan. They’re here with no plan B, and no regrets.

“It is better to sell everything to take care of yourself and your family,” Karim Yar said. “I don't feel bad because now at least we are here and safe. We have freedom.”

But they don’t have their eldest son. Mustafa, the one responsible for getting the rest of the family out of Afghanistan, is still living in California.

 Karim Yar children look pensively out from their front porch. They are trying to build a new life in Kansas City, but still waiting to be reunited with Mustafa, the eldest brother
Frank Morris
/
KCUR
The Karim Yar family is trying to build a new life in Kansas City, but is still waiting to be reunited with Mustafa, the eldest son.

Rahimi, who has maintained contact with Mustafa, says it’s unclear when the child, now 10, will come to Kansas City. He has made connections with his host family, his new friends and his school. Unlike anyone else in his family, he’s now fluent in English.

“I just talked with Mustafa two days ago, and now he can hardly speak our native language,” said Rahimi. “He keeps speaking English with the dad, and doesn’t understand this is a big challenge.”

The family hopes to get this sorted out as quickly as possible and turn another obstacle into opportunity. Karim Yar said he’s willing to do any kind of work. Back home, he was a professional soldier and a shopkeeper. He’s banking on his kids to help with the next big transition.

“I see a few big challenges with my future life here,” said Karim Yar. “Hopefully my kids can go to school, and I can start learning English from them.”

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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