14-year old Muska Behzad's father remembers her as a selfless soul who wanted to help her family. Muska was killed in a road accident in South Burnaby on May 5. Lutfullah Behzad / Supplied

Family of 14-year old Muska Behzad, killed in Burnaby road accident, ‘destroyed’ by her death

Muska Behzad was killed in a road accident in South Burnaby on May 5, while walking home from school in the area of 11th Ave and 18th St.

By Srushti Gangdev | May 13, 2022 |11:39 am

The dearest memory Lutfullah Behzad has of his eldest daughter is when she learned to walk.

Muska Behzad was only eight or nine months old when Behzad determined that she, his pride and joy, would walk as soon as she could.

“I really worked hard on her,” he said.

“Sometimes, my mom would say to me, ‘My son, you’re doing such funny things. Why you don’t let her do that walking stuff naturally, you know, don’t push her too much?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, Mom. I’m doing this to see her walk as soon as she can.”

Extraordinarily, Behzad said, his efforts worked. Muska took her first steps at nine months old, much younger than many children when they begin to walk.

From even that early age, Muska proved herself as someone who wanted to stand on her own feet and help others as well.

Muska was killed in a road accident in South Burnaby on May 5, while walking home from school in the area of 11th Ave and 18th St. She was just 14 years old.

Behzad told the Beacon that while the full details of the incident aren’t clear, his daughter had a slight fear of dogs and may have been startled by one nearby, prompting her to step out into the street where she was hit by a dump truck.

Burnaby RCMP say the investigation is ongoing and that it’s too early to draw any conclusions, but that there’s no indication the dog was behaving dangerously or had been the subject of complaints.

Residents of the area have expressed outrage over her death, saying that they raised alarm bells with the city for months that the area—experiencing a heavy volume of construction and trucking traffic, with a sparse sidewalk network—was unsafe for pedestrians.

Neighbours are now planning a vigil in honour of Muska, and a GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with expenses.

Muska dreamed of becoming a doctor

Behzad, reflecting on his daughter’s short life, says she was a selfless soul devoted to her family.

Behzad came to Canada as a refugee claimant from Afghanistan, landing in the country on October 1, 2018. For the next two years, he worked multiple jobs to sponsor his family—his wife, Muska, and her five siblings—to be allowed to come here as well. They arrived on November 14, 2020, when Muska was 12-years-old.

She soon began attending Byrne Creek Community School, and was surprised and overjoyed at the resources available to students here, like libraries.

Back home in Afghanistan, the Taliban was gaining control. When they toppled the country’s democratic government in mid-2021, girls were told they shouldn’t attend school or receive an education.

“She would really get angry. She would say, ‘Papa, why are the Taliban not allowing the girls to go to the school?’ And she would cry sometimes. She would tell me, ‘If I was there, so that would happen to me as well,’” Behzad said.

“She was always thinking about the fellow Afghans living in Afghanistan. She would tell me all the time, how could we make it possible—to somehow convince the Taliban, they also have families, at least, you know. They also have daughters, they also have wives, they should allow at least you know the girls to go to school and to get educated.”

Muska Behzad. Lutfullah Behzad / Supplied
Muska Behzad. Lutfullah Behzad / Supplied

Muska deeply wanted to help her own family at any possible opportunity as well. She saw her father, tired from working long hours to keep up with the expenses of living in Canada, and promised that when she was older she would become a doctor and provide for the family.

“She would tell me, ‘Papa, I know you’re really suffering, and you’re working hard. You’re working long hours. So I promise you that I will be a doctor in the future.’ … So that was her aspiration. And her great thinking—in the future, she will give a big hand to me, she will be more supportive financially.”

A dedicated sister

She spent a lot of her short childhood looking after her five younger siblings, including learning how to care for and feed her brother with cerebral palsy. She also helped her mother with the youngest of the children, who’s just eight months old.

Behzad describes her care and attention as equivalent to that of a registered nurse.

Behzad had to push her to spend time with her friends, even though Muska was always inclined to stay home and help her parents with her siblings.

“Then I would get angry or mad at her. I would tell her, ‘My daughter, it’s not the time for you to help us in this matter. You know, your mom is here, I’m here, so I will be helping her. …So you don’t have to engage yourself in this. You just enjoy your life and just keep focusing on your studies,’” Behzad said.

“You see how committed she was.”

The name Muska means ‘smile’ in Pashto and Arabic, and hers was a beautiful one.

In her spare time, she loved playing basketball with her friends, a sport not particularly well known in Afghanistan, but that she was delighted to discover here. Shortly before her death, she had also started to enjoy soccer—even requesting a soccer ball as a present for Eid.

Muska’s last Eid, however, brings up painful memories for Behzad, because her 14th birthday got lost in the shuffle between that festival and Behzad’s busy work schedule.

“The thing which will hurt me forever—she was born on May 1. On May 2, we had an Eid Festival. On that day she told me, ‘Papa, do you remember I have a birthday? I told her I do remember, my daughter. But I’m so busy [with my jobs] so I will be celebrating her birthday party on May 7.’ But she left us on May 5.”

“Usually I used to go for some part time job as well on Saturday and Sunday. But that particular day I promised her that I will definitely be celebrating your birthday party. That’s really hurting me. … These are the memories… my daughter’s death has really destroyed every one of us.”

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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