‘Tragedy on top of tragedy’: Pregnant refugee, mother of 5 dies in Gwinnett crash

The Gwinnett County Police Department is still investigating the accident (Courtesy Gwinnett County Police Department)

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The Gwinnett County Police Department is still investigating the accident (Courtesy Gwinnett County Police Department)

Sajida Hussaini had resettled in metro Atlanta after fleeing Afghanistan last year. She was killed while crossing a road.

A refugee’s new life in the Atlanta area came to an end late last month, when she was struck and killed while crossing a Gwinnett County road.

A 34-year-old from Afghanistan, Sajida Hussaini was six months pregnant when the crash happened on June 27, according to family friends. Hussaini’s unborn child reportedly also died in the accident.

Hussaini leaves behind her husband and five children: a son and four daughters. The family had settled in Georgia last November, having fled Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover. Hussaini’s nine-year-old son was with her when she was hit, but did not suffer any injuries, according to police.

“It just breaks my heart,” said Safa Delery, a refugee resettlement worker who first met the Hussainis last fall, when the family was living in a Duluth hotel while waiting for more permanent housing. They eventually moved to a Clarkston apartment earlier this year and the husband found a job. He had previously served as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Their children are ages 7, 9, 13, 15 and 18.

“Knowing that they had the opportunity to leave [Afghanistan] and they got on that plane, and they came to the United States, they truly were so excited and happy to start a life here.”

On the day of the accident, police say Hussaini and her son had just got out of an Uber parked on Hewatt Road near Snellville when they began to cross the road. They walked into the path of a vehicle, which struck Hussaini.

Police said the driver stayed on the scene of the crash, but did not say if the driver has been charged. Investigators are working to determine whether speed was a factor in the crash, according to a statement from the Gwinnett County Police Department.

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Delery says Hussaini was attempting to reach an area hospital, where her oldest daughter was hospitalized with an illness.

“This is just tragedy on top of tragedy for a family that’s already struggling to find their way here,” said Hogai Nassery. “I can’t even understand how deep a loss this is going to be.”

Last fall, Nassery co-founded the Afghan American Alliance of Georgia (AAAGA), a nonprofit that helps evacuees from Afghanistan start new lives in the Atlanta metro area. She says she wonders whether the accident would have happened if Hussaini had access to more reliable transportation.

At a summit of refugee community leaders and service providers held in Clarkston in May, advocates repeatedly brought up transportation as one of the biggest issues newcomers face.

“It’s a huge need,” Nassery said. “You and I both know that in Atlanta, if you don’t drive, MARTA isn’t going to get you where you need to go.”

Most refugee families rely on rides from friends and volunteers, as well as ride-hailing services. They walk when they can. For the Hussainis, a donated bicycle covers some of their transportation needs.

When Afghan refugees began arriving in Georgia by the hundreds last fall, they had difficulty taking the written part of the Georgia’s driver test. That changed in March, when the Department of Driver Services added Farsi to its list of languages, a move taken in response to public demand, according to state Department of Driver Services public information officer Susan Sports.

“There was a lot of advocacy on that on that front. There was a grassroots movement of Afghans and resettlement advocates who were saying that this needed to happen,” Nassery said.

Earlier this year, another Afghan refugee lost her life after being struck by a car in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also a mother with several children, she was struck while walking on the sidewalk.

To help support the Hussaini family, Delery started an online fundraiser, that had raised over $37,000 by Tuesday. “No amount of money will compensate for the loss of a mother,” the fundraiser reads.

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