The Brother Who Survived: From Iran to Canada

The Brother Who Survived: Bringing a Humanitarian to Safety

Name: Farzad Zac
Background: Kurdish from Northern Iran
Current location: Turkey – for over five years
Risk of returning: Arrest, torture, death
Need: Private sponsorship to Canada, $16,500 in fundraising
Advantages: University-educated, strong English, filmmaking skills, UNHCR certified

Farzad and his brother were taught by their mother to advocate for a better world, and respect the rights of women and children. This willingness to stand up for justice would cost the brothers dearly, with one losing his life, and the other his country.

His story
Raised by a single mother in Kurdish Iran, Farzad and his brother did their best to make their mother proud.

From my mother, we learned the importance of making the world a better place for women and children. I love my mother, who taught me so much about being strong and standing up for what’s right.”


In university, Farhad, the older brother, helped organize a protest against the presidential election, widely believed to be rigged. He paid a heavy price for his activism. On October 28, 2010, Farhad was in his car when he was shot multiple times. He passed away three days later. 

When Farzad and his father tried to claim the body, they were attacked by members of the religious police. Farzad was stabbed twice from behind.

“My body was covered in blood, and I fell into a coma. When I woke up at the hospital a few days later, my mother was with me and crying. She explained that they had threatened my father if he complained, and they would kill me next.”

Honouring a Memory

Farzad had two surgeries to recover from the knife attack. After recovering, he decided to honour his brother’s memory by continuing his work. He and his friends wrote articles in a student journal on the rights of women and children.  

In October of 2013, a friend called to say that his work as an activist had been discovered. He was forced to make a choice – risk the same fate, or leave his country forever.

Leaving Home
He took a bus to a town close to the border, and paid someone to help him cross from Iran to Turkey without a passport. He travelled 18 hours on foot by mountains and a valley river.

“It was like a movie. There was a moment when I was on a hill at night. I could see the lights of a city in Iran, and thought, I’m not going to see this city again. I’m not going to see my family or my friends.”

Life on Hold

As soon as he arrived in Turkey, he registered with the UNHCR office in Ankara. The UNHCR office told him to live in a small city in the centre of Turkey. There life is difficult and unsafe. Because of his Kurdish background, he is an unwanted outsider.  

“I have been in this country for five years, much of it unemployed and feeling lost and stuck. These are the prime years of my life and they are wasting away. I want to continue my education, find a job in which I can support myself and feel safe again - in a country like Canada that values the freedom and dignity of all its citizens.”

There is Hope
As UNHCR refugee, Farzad is eligible for Canada’s private sponsorship program. A group of private citizens in Toronto - including Stephen Watt  and Azad Salehi  - have teamed up to bring Farzad to a better life. Under the PSR program, we must raise enough money to cover Farzad’s rent and living expenses for one year.

The total set by Canadian immigration is $16,500. That amount includes:

·      12 months of income ($13,200) for:
·      Shelter: $7,008
·      Food staples: $105
·      Startup costs: $3,300
·      Household needs: $300
·      Furniture: $1,085
·      Clothing: $385

As soon as this money is collected, it will be held in a secure bank account managed by Community Matters Toronto , a registered charity that will also serve as Farzad’s official sponsor. When Farzad arrives, the money will be disbursed under guidelines laid out by the Canadian government.

The Opportunity
Farzad is creative and motivated, and a talented filmmaker, and would make a wonderful addition to this country. If you can help, please click on the “Donate” button. Every dollar brings us one step to our goal.

We are also building the team of sponsors to bring Farzad to Canada. If you would like to join, please contact Stephen Watt by Facebook. You can also read Farzad's full profile here.

Thank you for your support. And help spread the word by sharing this post!

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Stephen Watt 
Toronto, ON
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