Her family fled life as Hazara refugees in Iran. Now she’s excelling as a Brisbane school captain

A young woman in jeans rides her bike down suburban Logan street.

For most observers, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

But for Fahima Ahmadi, it means the world.

“The dream I had been to ride a bike freely in the streets — just to be able to ride a bike in a public space,” she said.

A girl in jeans riding a bike
Fahima Ahmadi is enjoying new freedoms after moving from Iran to Australia.(ABC News: Sally Eeles )

The 19-year-old student and her sisters were born in Iran as Afghan refugees of Hazara ethnicity. Ms Ahmadi’s family escaped persecution in Afghanistan. In Iran, their life was very confined.

“There were a lot of restrictions for refugees from Afghanistan,” she said.

“Like many other Afghanistani families, we were alive, but not living. We didn’t have freedom of movement. I wasn’t allowed to participate in some school competitions because of my identity, and being a girl made it harder.”

Since touching down in Queensland on March 20, 2019, Ms Ahmadi’s wasted no time in setting to work on all of her dreams, and, as well as riding a bike, she’s racked up a list of accomplishments.

This year, she is captain of Stretton State College. Last year, she was chosen to be a member of the Queensland Youth Parliament. She’s an active volunteer for Multicultural Australia. She’s an advocate for asylum seekers. She’s been elected secretary of the youth wing of the Labor party. She’s also got her driver’s license … and learned English.

All that, in just three years.

“I feel more myself now than what I was,” she said.

A smiling girl in a pink coat
Fahima Ahmadi is the school captain of Stretton State College.(ABC News: Sally Eeles)

In Iran, the family lived in a very small house, “what most Australians would think is a storeroom,” Ms Ahmadi said.

“My father was a construction worker, leaving home at 5am to come home in the evening in the hope he’d have some food and money to save to pay our school fees so my sister and I wouldn’t be called out in class. “

In his search for a better life for his children, Ms Ahmadi’s father, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi made the treacherous journey to Christmas Island by boat in 2011, before the government introduced mandatory offshore detention.

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