Arezu Kashify loved many things – cooking, carnival games, roller coasters, lounging by a lake with her friends and family.
But perhaps more than anything, she loved to learn. To desire, and to have a goal worth tackling, said her friend and tutor Madeleine Wiersma, whether it was completing a degree, or even learning to drive.
“She was so excited by everything,” she said. “She was always driven.”
Wiersma would know. For months she taught English to the 24-year-old mother of two when she first arrived to Spokane in 2014 from Afghanistan with her husband Wahid Kashify. With each lesson, the words would stick, the vocabulary would grow, and the friendship would blossom.
Eventually, she was even taking classes in English at Spokane Community College. She dreamed of being nurse – a dream that was cut short.
Last week, detectives at the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office found Kashify’s body hidden under a false bottom of a chest freezer in the north Spokane apartment she shared with her husband. The Spokane County Medical Examiner on Monday confirmed Kashify’s identity after using a fingerprint comparison.
Detectives suspect she died at the hands of her husband, who left the country on May 28 to an undisclosed location. In a Toyota van Washid Kashify drove to the airport, investigators found a note in the center console. It provided a code to his phone still inside the apartment, and a short message.
“There is a video or two videos that you can watch and judge,” it read. “Thanks.”
Last seen on May 25, Arezu’s disappearance puzzled friends and family who said she would never go anywhere without her two children, Omid and Arveen, ages 5 and 1 respectively. The kids were dropped off by Wahid at a family friend’s house, who called Child Protective Services on May 30 – the same day another friend officially reported her missing.
In a search warrant filed Thursday in Spokane Superior Court, Detective Marc Melville spoke to several friends who reported Arezu had become increasingly scared of her husband. Some noticed bruises on her leg, while a nurse was reportedly told that her husband “would kill her immediately” if she called law enforcement for help.
The children now reside with CPS, though friends say the agency has fielded several requests from the local Afghan community interested in adoption.
Wiersma said she hadn’t noticed any marital troubles.
Rather, she said Wahid was mostly supportive of her education, even if he disagreed with her desire to work or learn to drive.
“He was a very nice person and I considered him a friend as well,” she said. “It’s extremely confusing to me. It seems very out of character.”
According to a Spokesman-Review profile in 2015, the couple came to America from Afghanistan on a Special Immigration Visa program, designed specifically for refugees who helped U.S. military or governmental personnel and now can’t live safely in their native countries.
In 2006, Wahid Kashify was part of an American convoy traveling from Ghazni province to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. Since 2003, he had worked as a translator and interpreter for Mission Essential Personnel, a defense contracting firm.
Madeleine Wiersma was one of the first American friends Arezu made in Spokane. Long after the lessons were over, Kashify still referred to her friend as “teacher.”
Noelle Wiersma, Madeleine’s mom and a professor of psychology at Whitworth University, remembers Arezu as a fiercely determined woman who embraced new situations with a smile and a laugh. If there was one word the Wiersma family used to describe Arezu, it was “spunky.”
On a day when they all attended the Spokane County Fair, she recalls teaching Kashify to say “I rode a roller coaster” in English – just so she could recite it to her American friends.
“To me that’s just indicative of her,” said Noelle Wiersma. “She loved her children, she loved her friends. She was very engaged with life.”
On Saturday, Noelle Wiersma, along with her husband and two sons, visited the apartment at 33 E. Graves Road, where they laid down a bouquet of flowers, a balloon and a small poster with a card.
“Happy Birthday Arezu!” it reads, given a day after she would have turned 25. “With love, from your teacher and your teacher’s family.”
Next to it is a picture of Arezu – snapped by the Wiersma family five years ago., when she first tasted chocolate cake. Her smile is as wide and beaming as the candles on the dessert.
“She was the most beautiful flower this world has ever seen,” Madeleine Wiersma wrote in a letter for her friend. “I miss you and I love you, Arezu, you are forever my Afghani sister.”
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