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Canadian man who lost mother and sister in Turkiye earthquake struggles to help surviving siblings

By Hayatullah Amanat, writer

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — GRAPHIC WARNING: This story contains disturbing details

It was around 11 p.m. on Feb. 5 in Calgary when Mohammad Ajmal Nikzad heard the news on TV about the devastating earthquake that hit Kahramanmaras, Turkiye, where his mother and three siblings were living.

“I tried to call them. I called every one of them, but their phones were off,” he told on Tuesday. “I realized that something had happened to them and soon I booked a ticket and came to Turkiye.”

Nikzad’s mother, along with his brother and sisters, were living in a seven-storey building when the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake jolted wide swaths of Turkey and Syria. The entire structure collapsed.

“My family is under the building. Of four family members, two of were taken to hospital and two of them – my mother and my sister – are under dust … Please pray for them to be alive,” Nikzad said in a video he posted to TikTok on Feb. 7.

“When I arrived there, I saw the doomsday. I saw bodies with no legs, no heads,” he added.

After hours of searching, Nikzad said he found the dead bodies of his 23-year-old sister Sayeda Hashimi and his mother Najya among those pulled from the rubble by rescue teams.

He tried to find an ambulance or a vehicle to take them somewhere to be buried.

“I was on the street for six hours with my sister’s body in a bag, but no one was helping me. I desperately was asking every driver to stop and help me,” Nikzad told CTV

Finally, a group of people answered his calls for help. After burying his mother and sister, he started searching for his 20-year-old sister Najma Hashimi and 25-year-old brother Sharif Hashimi. Nikzad found out his brother was taken to a hospital in the Turkish capital of Ankara for treatment. Both of his legs were amputated.

His surviving sister was taken to a hospital in Kayseri, where doctors informed him one of her legs had to be amputated.

“When I saw my sister, she could barely open her eyes. She was asking for my mother and other family members. Her eyes were full of dust,” Nikzad said. “She was in very bad condition.” Last week’s earthquake, which centred around Kahramanmaras and also hit neighbouring Syria, has claimed at least 39,000 lives.

Nikzad’s family is originally from northern Afghanistan, in the Baghlan province. He came to Canada as a refugee 17 years ago and is now a Canadian citizen.

His mother was a school principal and often received threats from the Taliban to stop teaching girls, he says, but she refused. One day, his father was killed, and in 2017 the family decided to move to Turkiye for safety reasons.

Now, Nikzad’s wife and eight-year-old son are waiting for him at home in Calgary as he tries to find a way to bring his surviving siblings with him to Canada.

“I reached out to the Canadian embassy and also the Canadian government in Ottawa, they said they can do nothing for my siblings and I have to contact immigration, [Refugees and Citizenship Canada]” Said Nikzad. “I’ve sent several emails to immigration but they are not responding.”

Nikzad, who is a self-employed floor installer, says he feels devastated and helpless as he has to take care of his family in Calgary and the two siblings in Turkiye. He hopes the Canadian government can somehow help his family.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser last week indicated Canada may fast-track immigration applications from people caught in the earthquake zones in Turkiye and Syria.

For more news from, sign up for one of our newsletters: Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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