From flipping burgers to Harvard. A story of an Afghan Sikh refugee

Afghan-born Awnit Singh Marta, whose parents fled Afghanistan when he was a month old, is not sitting idle

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Awnit Singh Marta at Harvard University – Photo: Danu Mudannayake
By Asia Samachar Team | UNITED STATES |

From searching a place to call home to flipping burgers, Afghan-born Awnit Singh Marta has been through quite a bit in life.

And now he has hit another milestone for himself and his family. The first generation student from his family has just graduated from Harvard University.

In an update on his Facebook page, the electrical engineering graduate writes:

“My parents left Afghanistan when I was less than a month old, seeking refuge in The Netherlands. They moved from one country to another to another so that their children could get the education they never received.

I worked three jobs freshman fall, my mental health tumbling alongside my GPA. I’ve delivered laundry, flipped burgers, cleaned dorms, stocked shelves, ushered for events.

I am a Sikh. I am an Afghan. I am a refugee. I am a first gen student.

And from today, I am a graduate of Harvard.”

The news comes at a time when Sikhs in Afghanistan are faced with peril. In March, gunmen stormed a gurdwara in Kabul and killed 26 people. The incident was yet another attack on the minority community. The incident also sparked efforts to get the Afghan Sikhs out of Afghanistan as their lives were at stake.

Awnit is not ordinary student. As he writes, his parents left Afghanistan when he just a month old. They fled Afghanistan for the Netherlands, where they lived for eight years until they moved to England.

At Harvard, Awnit did not sit idle, too. He was active in the US university’s bhangra team which he helped to revitalise.

When he first joined Harvard Bhangra, the group was struggling — a low participation rate combined with inadequate leadership. Marta stepped in as a sophomore and helped to create a board for Bhangra, hoping that, with more structure, the group would survive and grow, reports The Harvard Crimpson. That’s not all. The magazine also reported that he had resurrected the Harvard British Club and assumed the role of Prime Minister.

Awnit and the Harvard bhangra team – Photo: The Harvard Crimpson

RELATED STORY:

Life under the Taliban (Asia Samachar, 28 May 2020)

First Afghan Sikh lawyer in England chose law. Here’s why. (Asia Samachar, 12 March 2020)

ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: editor@asiasamachar.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |

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