Many Afghan Canadians say they feel fearful and powerless as they watch from afar as the Taliban take over Afghanistan once again, and are calling on Canada to increase its initial commitments to take in those trying to flee the rebel group.
“They are so desperate that they keep calling to ask if there is anything we can do to bring them here,” says Neelofer Mansuri, an Afghan Canadian woman living in Toronto.
Mansuri says he has been receiving hundreds of messages daily from people in Afghanistan. Some from people you know, others you don’t.
“Women, students who have sent me messages. They say, ‘I know you don’t know me, but please, I can’t explain it, I can’t be here now,’ says Mansuri. “They are afraid of being killed.”
“You feel helpless here as an Afghan-Canadian, knowing that there is really nothing you can do right now due to the catastrophe that is happening at home and the chaos with the airport as the only method of escape and travel,” he adds.
Videos posted on social media show people clinging to departing planes and running through the gates of Kabul International Airport on Monday. Senior US military officials say the chaos at the airport has left seven people dead, including some who fell from a departing US military transport plane.
Mansuri says that people living in Afghanistan are afraid because they don’t know what will come next. In recent months, the Taliban have regained power in parts of Afghanistan, culminating in their takeover of the capital Kabul on Sunday.
His achievements come just weeks before the United States finishes withdrawing its troops, after two decades of conflict.
Taliban leaders have promised an era of peace, but Mansuri says Afghans are skeptical.
“With past history and the proof and evidence of what we have seen in Afghanistan over the past two years, for many people that is hard to believe,” he says. “This is why we are seeing chaos, this is why we are seeing people trying to leave as soon as possible.”
Canada has pledged to host 20,000 Afghan refugees in the coming months, through government, private and family sponsorship. Khalidha Nasiri, executive director of the Afghan Youth Engagement and Development Initiative, says that while she is pleased that it is happening, more needs to be done.
“Those refugees are people who are already in the system,” he explains. “It does not include the people who are trapped in Afghanistan and want to get out.”
Nasiri adds that this humanitarian crisis is occurring during another crisis.
“These people need shelter, they need the basic necessities of life,” she says. “We cannot forget that all this is happening in the context of a pandemic. They also need vaccines and medical supplies. “
The Afghan Canadians that CityNews spoke to helped launch the Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace today. It was created to demand that the federal government take more action and to ensure that politicians are not distracted from the issue by elections.
There are links to aid organizations working in Afghanistan on the CityNews Extras page.