Parental sacrifices set up six sisters to be successful in America


Salima and Ghulam Sediqi, top left, with their daughters Sadaf, 21, Sana, 16, Sanam, 12, Shabnam, 9, Sahar, 6 and Sarah.

Salima Sediqi’s father wanted her to be a doctor. He named her Salima after a female physician the family knew in their hometown of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Salima wanted to be a stewardess. She loved airplanes and dreamed of exploring the world.

But growing up in a conflict-ridden Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s would put both careers out of reach for Salima. In Kabul, Salima’s education was interrupted by frequent school closures, and the girl’s schools were threatened by hazards like poison in the school water tanks. 

Instead, Salima’s life followed an unexpected path. She moved to Pakistan and later married Ghulam Sediqi, an engineer from Kabul. With Afghanistan under Taliban control, the couple moved to America, first to join Ghulam’s family in Los Angeles, and later to Idaho.

In the United States, Salima said, her children are living out the dreams she couldn’t.

“They are making me proud, because the things that I wanted to do for myself, they’re doing it for me,” Salima said. “They are making my dreams come true.”

Ghulam and Salima have six daughters, ages 6 to 21 — and each has a career plan.

“I might be an orthodontist,” the youngest, Sarah, said on a recent Saturday, between episodes of Scooby-Doo.

Sahar, 6, is an aspiring pharmacist.

Nine-year-old Shabnam wants to be a judge.

Sanam, 12, plans to study aircraft engineering like her father who holds multiple degrees in the field.

Sadaf, 21, and Sana, 16, both plan to study medicine, carrying out the ambitions of their parents and grandparents.

“They are studying very hard, and it makes me happy,” Ghulam said.

Ghulam has two degrees. Born in Kabul, he spent 16 years in Latvia, where he earned his master’s degree in aircraft engineering.

After marrying Salima and moving to the United States in 1998, he looked for a job at Boeing and aviation companies near Los Angeles International Airport, to no avail. His English wasn’t good enough to pass all of the tests, Ghulam said, and employers turned him away after the September 11, 2001 attacks, because he wasn’t an American citizen.

Ghulam went back to school, earning a Federal Aviation Administration A and P license from Inglewood’s Westwood College of Aviation Technology, but the airplane career he hoped for never panned out. His family moved to Boise in 2006,  where he became a cab driver, eventually purchased and ran a fleet of taxis, and now owns the local Ali Towing businesses.

“He’s been through some tough careers,” said Sadaf, his eldest daughter.  “He’s an educated person, and those careers weren’t really for him.”

Ghulam’s sacrifices and success motivate Sadaf. She spent her infancy in a small home in Inglewood, California, while her father worked at a Toyota dealership to support the family. Now, she and her five sisters live in a sprawling Meridian subdivision.

“Seeing him work so hard, doing jobs that he wasn’t really meant to do to provide for us and send us to school … it really breaks my heart sometimes because I know he deserves better,” Sadaf said. “The only way we can repay him is to succeed ourselves.”

That’s what they plan to do.

Sadaf is due to graduate from Boise State University this spring, with a degree in psychology. She plans to enroll in medical school and study dermatology.

Sana, 16, is also enrolled at Boise State. She finished high school in the West Ada School District in two years and hopes to get her undergraduate degree just as fast. She wants to be in medical school before she turns 19.

Sana Sediqi

School wasn’t always easy for Sana, who dealt with bullying through elementary and middle school. After a particularly rough start to freshman year, she transferred to West Ada’s Rocky Mountain High School and finished, fast. She took summer courses and piled online classes on top of her regular school schedule, earning enough credits to graduate by the time she finished her second year.

“Now that I’m in college, I feel like it’s a better experience because everyone cares about themselves,” she said.

Outside of class, Sana volunteers at St. Alphonsus hospital and at Genesis Community Health, a Boise nonprofit that works with uninsured and low-income patients in the Treasure Valley. She’s working with Sadaf to build an organization that fundraises for Afghan children in need. And she teaches 4-and-5-year-old students martial arts at Yong-In Master Lee’s Tae Kwon Do in Eagle, where she and her sisters practice.

Sana was a quiet student when she first started Tae Kwon Do two years ago, program director Hannah Kim said. As she enrolled in leadership classes and on more responsibilities, Sana became more confident.

“She tries to help other students, which is very important,” program director Hannah Kim said. “She does a very good job of standing up, and becoming lead.”

Like her sister, Sana is studying psychology and working on prerequisites for medical school. With high school transfer credits, online classes and summer work, she hopes to graduate no later than the spring of 2021 and start toward her goal of becoming a heart surgeon.

“There are people along the way, advisors and people that will tell you you can’t do it,” Sana said. “The people that tell you you can’t motivate you to do it even better.”

Sami Edge

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

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