In 1972, Hassanali and Sakinabai Fakirani along with 60,000 other Ugandan Asians were forced from their homes by Uganda’s dictator Idi Amin. Hassanali, Sakinabai and 6,000 others entered Canada as refugees.
Almost 42 years later, on June 20, the Fakirani family gathered at Carleton University with friends and other members of the Ugandan Asian community in order to commemorate World Refugee Day and announce the Fakiranis’ support for Carleton’s Ugandan Asian Archives Collection. The archive includes more than 1,000 newspaper clippings about the 1972 expulsion. A gift from the Fakirani family has supported the cataloguing and digitizing of the archive, the creation of a website as well as the ongoing collection of oral histories.
“It’s very important because it allows the family to share some of the experiences that we’d been through during the time that we had to leave the country and also the experience of settling into Canada,” said Nizar Fakirani, Hassanali and Sakinabai’s son. “We want to preserve this experience for the future generations. I hope that they will learn about it and extrapolate from it. That it will assist Canada, and our policy makers, to be able to respond to any future incidents of similar kind, where people have to be uprooted in large numbers.”
Carleton University has named a study room in the library in the memory of Hassanali and Sakinabai Fakirani.
Idi Amin ordered the 1972 expulsion of Ugandan Asians in what was recognized as an indophobic policy to cleanse the country of non-Ugandans. Many Ugandan Asian families had been living in Uganda for generations and played important roles in the country’s economy and daily life. The expulsion order led to one of the largest refugee events in Canada’s history.
The Ugandan Asian Archives Collection was brought to Carleton in conjunction with the Canadian Immigration Historical Society. It provides unique personal perspectives on the expulsion as well as how Western countries, particularly Britain and Canada, handled the event.
“We now have a presence in Canada that we never had before this project,” said Senator Mobina Jaffer at the June 20 event. Jaffer is a Ugandan native whose family was also forced to flee under Amin’s dictatorship. “This is the next stage in our evolution, and it’s a very emotional stage, because now we have a place in history.”
“We are so thankful to the Fakirani family for sharing their very personal story with us and supporting the archive’s development,” said Patti Harper, head of Carleton Library’s Archives and Research Collections department. “The Ugandan Asian Archives will contribute to migration and diaspora studies research, a field of growing importance especially when you consider the UN’s recent news that the world now has the highest number of displaced people since World War II.”
Over the course of the coming years, Carleton Library will work with communities, families and individuals in Canada to capture the oral histories of South Asian and Indochinese refugees who came to Canada in the 1970s and 1980s.