Calgary-based aid group mobilizes against human rights violations of Afghan women as Taliban take Kabul
Afghan-Canadians are expressing deep nervousness and worry for family members and friends back home as Taliban fighters continue to pose a threat and push for a transfer of power.
The Canadian government has since shut down its embassy in the capital of Kabul and suspended all diplomatic operations on a temporary basis.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed Sunday that staff at the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan are on their way back home, but the opportunity to leave the country is quickly deteriorating.
Lauryn Oates, the executive director with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), says the situation is evolving at tremendous speed and creating difficulty for her team to provide support.
“People are terrified, they haven't had time to organize, there is sheer fear and there’s been a panic to leave the country as it’s becoming sealed in,” Oates said.
“There is fighting right now at the Kabul airport, which is the main way people were departing because the roads out of the country are not safe, borders are controlled by the Taliban, and that may be the end of people's ability to actually exit the situation.”
CW4WAfghan is a Calgary-based non-profit working with Afghan women across Canada and overseas. Its goals are to create gender equality by training thousands of teachers, providing literacy classes and basic necessities for women in need.
Oates calls the situation in Afghanistan "a human rights catastrophe."
“Schools for girls are closing, women are asked not to come to their jobs anymore, women businesses are closed, women don’t go to university in Kabul, they don’t have mobility and it’s not safe for them to go out,” she said.
“There are reports of women being shot in the streets because their clothes are reportedly too tight so there’s been extrajudicial executions.”
CALGARY AFGHAN COMMUNITY WORRIED FOR THEIR FAMILIES
CW4WAfghan says most Afghan-Canadians are worried about exposing their family back home as rumours fly around that the Taliban are searching through social media to see who may be connected to foreigners that criticize them.
An emailed statement was provided by Murwarid Ziayee, a member of the Afghan community who has an immediate family member in Kabul, whose life is in danger.
“I am outraged with what has happened in Afghanistan," it read.
"The United States and international community leaders, including the Government of Canada, betrayed us. They didn’t listen to us and our voices for over a year now. We have pictured today’s situation for a year, but we went unheard."
Thousands of women, men and children are currently huddling in secret locations across Afghanistan and the anxiety spikes with every capital that the Taliban captures.
Since April, the Taliban has captured 65 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory.
On Sunday, Taliban fighters entered Kabul with spokesperson Suhail Shaheen saying they expect a peaceful transition of power in a matter of days.
At the same time, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has left the country and his exact location remains unknown.
PM JUSTIN TRUDEAU CONDEMNS ESCALATING VIOLENCE
A joint statement from the federal ministers of foreign affairs, immigration and defence says the current situation in Afghanistan poses “serious challenges to Canada’s ability to ensure safety and security of our mission.”
Speaking to reporters Sunday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Canadian diplomatic personnel for their tireless efforts in their pursuit of democracy, human rights, education, health and security for the Afghan population.
He added that his government commits to resettling up to 20,000 Afghans, through the ongoing special immigration measures program.
“Canada firmly condemns the escalating violence, and we are heartbroken at the situation the Afghan people find themselves in today,” Trudeau said.
“This is especially so, given the sacrifices of Canadians who believed, and continue to believe in the future of Afghanistan. We will continue to work with allies and the international community to ensure that those efforts were not in vain.”
Canada joins the United States and several other Western missions that are in the process of pulling their personnel out from Kabul.