Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

9 Months Stuck at Sheremetyevo

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- An Iranian woman who had been living with her two children at Sheremetyevo Airport for nine months was free in Canada on Friday.

Zahra Kamalfar arrived at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday after a flight from Europe. Surrounded by reporters and supporters, she burst out sobbing, then fainted, after being reunited with her brother, Nader ­Kamalfar, whom she had not seen in nearly 14 years.

Kamalfar, 47, and her children, Anna, 17, and Davood, 12, had been living in the transit lounge of Sheremetyevo ­Airport since May, her Canadian lawyer Negar Azmudeh said.

"I don't know how to thank the Canada government. I say thank you, thank you, thank you so much," she told CBC Television in broken English on Friday.

Kamalfar's plight began almost three years ago when she and her husband participated in a demonstration in Tehran in July 2004 against the Iranian government, Azmudeh said.

They were both arrested after the demonstration and jailed, where ­Kamalfar says she was beaten with a chain. Other supporters say she was ­sexually abused while in prison.

The human rights activist's chance for escape came when she was given a two-day pass to visit her family in April 2005. When she got home, Kamalfar was told that her husband had been executed. She then fled Iran with her two children with the intention of going to Canada, where her brother lives.

The fate of her husband is uncertain, Davood Ghavami of the Iranian Canadian Congress, told The Toronto Star.

Kamalfar declined to discuss her woes back in Iran. "I don't like to remember because too much for me," she said. "We need time; maybe after that I can explain for you."

Kamalfar and her children had been living at the Moscow airport since last summer after Russian authorities refused her entry to that country. She feared she and her children would be detained and abused. In limbo at the airport, she depended on the goodwill of strangers and received food regularly from Aeroflot.

"That place very hard because we don't have anything," she said. "We cannot take shower. You cannot sleep."

Some 10 to 20 people are camping out in Sheremetyevo Airport's international hall at any given time. Some are seeking asylum, others were stranded when their airline stopped flying.

Once Kamalfar was granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Canada agreed earlier this month to accept Kamalfar and her two children.

Kamalfar intends to live in the Vancouver area, already home to about 30,000 Iranians, and place her two children in school there.

"I want first my child go to hospital and then they go in school," she said. "I think that then I want to find a job and a new life -- a start for new life."