Sajida’s story


Ema Stankova

Sajida Mirzada at the Cotter Residence Center in February, 2022

In August, 2020, life for many families in Afghanistan was thrown out of balance and into uncertainty.

The family of Cotter High School senior Sajida Mirzada was no exception. “It is hard to imagine all the stuff that happened to my family,” Sajida said. “When I think about this, I feel sad.”

While Sajida and her brother were in America when the Taliban retook control of the country after 20 years of American presence Afghanistan, the rest of her family were trapped, unable to leave.

“Our family tried to get out, going to Pakistan,” said Sajita. “They were deported back, which was very sad.”

Sajida and her family were recently featured in an article in the Winona Post that covered the events in Afghanistan.

“I work with Winona Afghan Support Network.. They asked if I would like to talk to [The Post]. They made the connection,” Sajida said, when asked about the article.  “I told all my story, then she asked about my family situation… I covered everything.”

Aside from working with the WASN to help her family, Sajida’s family also has a GoFundMe which is trying to raise funds to help her parents, siblings, and extended family out of Afghanistan.

“My brother and I are trying to get passports for my family, which is very expensive… The Taliban is asking for under the table money.”

Everything changed in August when the Taliban took control.  Half of the country is in danger of starving

— Sajida Mirzada

Sajida said that in addition to passports, to get her family out of Afghanistan, they will need to pay for plane tickets, food, transport, and more for 27 people.

Cotter senior Sajida Mirzada at Christmas, 2021. Sajida is hoping her family can make it out of Afghanistan and eventually to the U.S. (Maria Flores)

“Now they all have passports they are waiting to get to a 3rd country where its safe for them. They have applied for humanitarian parole with the US, but there is nothing happening right now. We are waiting on the US or other countries to start accepting refugees so they can be somewhere safe,” said Sajida’s older brother, Ziaulhaq Zia. “My oldest brother has worked with the US troops and he and his family are eligible to be rescued, but they are not.”

“Everything, everything is expensive right now… People are selling their kids! For $50! It’s awful… This is very very hard to even think about. The kids are calling and yelling at you, ‘I want food!’ but there is none. Everything changed,” said Sajida. “Everything changed in August when the Taliban took control.  Half of the country is in danger of starving.”

“I paid a huge fee to the USCIS for their humanitarian parole applications,” said Ziaulahaq, “but they are not doing anything.”

While the situation is very dire indeed, there’s still hope. Sajida is still in contact with her family through Whatsapp, and her brother, who is living in Zumbrota, is able to keep in touch as well.

“The Cotter Community is helping me by talking for example. Sitting and sharing my story, they help me mentally, you know?”

They urge anyone who knows of any organizations or ways to help to reach out and notify them.

Links to the Winona Post article and Gofundme page can be found here: