Shirzad Ahmed knows what it’s like to be a refugee — alone without family or friends. He survived Saddam Hussein’s brutal oppression, absorbing all the knowledge he could while his fellow Kurds were shelled, beaten, and bombarded with chemical weapons. His father scraped together $400 and launched Shirzad on an epic overland trek to find freedom and opportunity. He knocked on the door of 13 countries before gaining temporary refuge in Italy and a permanent home in Canada.
In Canada, Shirzad developed a passion for helping others. When he began studies at what was then UCFV, he co-founded a chapter of Amnesty International and became an advocate for disadvantaged students. As he went on to further studies and to build a successful law career, Shirzad never lost his fire for helping the oppressed.
Today, in Calgary, Shirzad’s office door is open to countless refugees fleeing persecution from every corner of the globe. He often assists them for free and even pays their court costs out of his own pocket.
Rebecca Anderson, a UFV alumna who attended at the same time as Ahmed and who is also now a lawyer, says that Shirzad has aided people who “might not be alive, or who would be imprisoned indefinitely, among the tortured or ‘disappeared,’ except that they received assistance.”
So far, Shirzad has helped people from 144 countries, including women fleeing genital mutilation in Kenya, gay men fleeing persecution in Nigeria, people fleeing persecution for membership in the Falun Gong religion in China, and many others.
“I think that it’s our duty to help people,” he says, “No matter where they come from.”
Shirzad was the first UFV alumnus to earn an honorary doctorate from UFV, awarded at Convocation in 2015. He was named one of UFV’s Top 40 Alumni in 2014, and was the UFV Distinguished Alumni Award winner in 2011.