Family who fled from the Taliban to Wales to attend new Senedd opening
A family who recently arrived in Wales after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan will be part of the official opening of the Sixth Session of the Senedd on Thursday.
The family arrived in Wales as part of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) having served the Armed Forces over 20 years in Afghanistan.
Both the Queen and the Prince of Wales will attend the opening, and the family will meet Prince Charles to talk about starting a new life in Wales.
The names of the family members have not been published in order to protect their identities as refugees from the Taliban.
The Senedd said that they were keen that the ceremony showcased the “voices of Wales’ diverse communities”.
A central part of the ceremony is the delivery of the mace to the debating chamber, to be placed in its sconce to signal that the Senedd is in session.
The role of Mace-bearer, who will carry out this important symbolic part of the ceremony, will be taken by Shaz Khan a member of the Senedd security team.
Shaz was born in Cardiff but moved to Pakistan at a very young age before returning to Wales. Shaz’s background is in catering, a trained chef, he used to work in the kitchen before becoming a security officer at the Senedd.
Shaz Khan said: “What an honour, I can’t describe it. It’s such an honour for me, from my very humble beginnings. And to be working with the Welsh Parliament itself, I’m very passionate about it.
“I’ve got relatives in Canada and Australia who will be watching on telly, I’ve been telling everybody!
“You kind of feel nervous, but at the same time, very, very proud to be part of something like this. I’m excited because the mace-bearer’s role includes leading the procession of Members of the Senedd into the building and to lead the Royal Party to the chamber where the opening ceremony will take place.“
Llywydd of the Senedd, Elin Jones MS, said that after experiencing 18 months “like no other” she hoped to “begin this new Senedd session with hope and resolve”.
“Our Official Opening event is not only a celebration of the Senedd but of the diverse communities across Wales whose voices are represented within these walls,” she said.
“I am particularly pleased that many COVID Community Champions who made such a positive difference in their areas, with strength and generosity of spirit, will join us from all parts of Wales. As we commemorate the beginning of a new Senedd term, let’s be inspired by these endeavours and by the voices within our unique communities as we face both the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Members of the first Welsh Youth Parliament – Eleri Griffiths from Cynon Valley and Oliver Edwards Davies, who represented Carers Trust – will read a poem written by children from 24 primary schools across Wales. Edited together by Gruffudd Owen, former Bardd Plant Cymru, the bilingual poem paints a picture of the kind of Wales the children would like to grow up in.
Tân Cerdd, a not-for-profit organisation set-up to raise the profile of Black voices in Wales, will perform a song they composed for the Official Opening, entitled Ymuno. Composed by Eadyth and Lily Beau, it also features the voices of a number of prominent black Welsh artists, Aleighcia Scott, Skunkadelic (Afrocluster), Vanity Jay (Baby Queens), Dionne Bennett and SZSW. It speaks of hope for the future and how all voices are stronger together.
The WNO Youth Opera will perform a rendition of Ar Lan y Môr – it will be the first time the choir have performed live in 18 months due to coronavirus restrictions.
People at home can enjoy the event live online by tuning into senedd.tv from 11.15am. The event will also be broadcast on BBC One Wales and S4C.