A small group of Vancouver-based Afghan-Canadians are scrambling to help their countrymen and women after the fall of Kabul.
Shortly after U.S. forces withdrew from the country and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled, the Taliban swept into Kabul Aug. 15. Thousands of Afghans who were once promised safety by foreign governments were left stranded in the country, vulnerable and unable to escape.
Former Afghan journalist Zahra Hashemi, who left Kabul for Vancouver six years ago, immediately formed a group amongst her friends to assist both refugees and Afghans stuck in the country. She said one of her concerns is how the federal government is identifying the 20,000 refugees it promised to bring into Canada.
Women and children are at particular risk , she said, adding she has family and friends in the country.
“To be honest, they are terrified.”
To make matters worse, Hashemi said the media isn’t portraying an accurate image of what’s happening on the ground.
“They’re trying to normalize the existence of the Taliban in Afghanistan but it’s not actually like that,” Hashemi said, adding that the terrorist organization is going “door-to-door” and harming people.
“I received voice messages from not my family, but my friend’s family, they were begging their uncles to come and take them because the Taliban just took one of their family members. She was like 13, 14 years old. It’s terrifying. I’m talking about it and I’ve got goosebumps.”
Speaking to photographs and videos of Afghan’s clinging to American planes as they left Kabul, Hashemi said the memory of Taliban control in 1996 is still fresh.
“They don’t trust them because they have the experience. This is what happened last time when the Taliban took over. They were OK for a month or so but then they started to show their real faces. It’s something they have experienced and that’s why they are terrified.”
Hashemi said her small group, which was only formed on Sunday, are looking to expand. Many of the Afghans applying to become a refugee don’t speak English, and Hashemi said her group needs help assisting Afghans through the process.
Another focus of the group, she said, is assisting refugees once they arrive to Canada.
“Canada is not prepared for this many refugees because there was a decision made very quickly by the government. We’re trying to participate in this process and do as much as we can here because we cannot do anything in Afghanistan.”
To help Hashemi and her group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.