In front of his home in Edmonton, Bashir Ahmadi showed his newborn baby and counted his blessings. Four months after arriving in Canada via the Afghan government’s resettlement program, he owes much.
He has a job as a painter, his eldest son is in school and his wife gave birth to a son last month. The Taliban, who threatened Ahmadi for working for the Canadian Forces in Kandahar, are now a distant threat.
“So far I feel comfortable here,” he said.
But he admits his new start was bittersweet due to the absence of his daughter Nazifa. The Taliban killed them at a military checkpoint on December 10, a poignant reminder of the dangers of leaving allies behind.
The family had applied to come to Canada four months earlier but had not yet been evacuated.
The fatal shooting of the 10-year-old shows the risks Afghans face as they wait for the Canadian government to honor its pledge to relocate personnel from its former military, diplomatic and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan.
In the days following Nazifa’s assassination, Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser said her death should “shake every Canadian’s conscience” and vowed to “keep up on our commitment to relocate 40,000 Afghan refugees no matter what the cost.”
But a year after the Taliban took over the country, thousands of Afghans are still trying to enter Canada. While 17,000 have arrived since the armed group took power on August 15, 2021, many say they fear Canada has deserted them.
A year after Taliban rule, Afghans fear Canada left them behind
Fraser defended the government in an interview last week, telling Global News it brought “enormous numbers” of Afghans into Canada and blamed delays on the Taliban. “Every time we take a step forward, the Taliban try to push back,” he said.
An agreement was reached in June to allow Afghans to transit through Pakistan en route to Canada, he said. But the Taliban then said they would not let Afghans leave the country unless they issued them a passport first.
“You can imagine someone trying to hide from (the Taliban) because of violence or persecution who isn’t too keen on asking them for help with issuing a passport,” Fraser said. “These are the kinds of challenges that we continue to work on.”
In his first interview since fleeing Afghanistan, Ahmadi told Global News he was convinced the Taliban had targeted his family because he worked for Canada. Between 2006 and 2011 he was a carpenter at the Canadian military base Graceland in Kandahar. The Taliban threatened him at the time. A letter sent home warned him to quit.
When the US military withdrew last August and the Afghan government collapsed, Ahmadi felt threatened and moved his family to Kabul. He had hoped to bring her to Canada but found chaos. Evacuation efforts failed and a suicide bomber attacked the crowd outside the airport, killing more than 170.
He applied for Canada’s special immigration program for Afghans who had served the government and said he received an email from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) telling him the family needed passports. So they returned to Kandahar to fetch them.
While there, they attended a cousin’s wedding. They left the reception in two cars. Nazifa was a passenger in the lead vehicle, while Ahmadi followed with his cousin Aziz Tarin at the wheel.
Shots erupted around 11 p.m. Tarin turned down a side street and stopped. Then his brother-in-law, who was driving the lead vehicle, called. He said the Taliban opened fire on their car.
In the safe houses of Kabul, where Afghans are waiting to be evacuated to Canada
Tarin and Ahamdi ran there to find the burning car. Nazifa had been shot in the head and foot. Her aunt was still inside. She too was dead. The Taliban came but just stayed back and watched, said Tarin, who said he was a former interpreter for the Canadian Forces. “I yelled at them, ‘What are you waiting for?’ But they didn’t help me,” he said.
The car had passed a checkpoint just before the Taliban opened fire. The vehicle was not stopped, but the Taliban shone flashlights in the faces of the occupants. Bullets hit the car from four directions. For Ahmadi and Tarin, the circumstances pointed to a targeted attack intended to punish them for their work for international forces. They took the survivors to the hospital and decided to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.
On January 21, the Canadian organization Aman Lara, which helps Afghans escape, picked them up after dark and drove them east on the Kabul-Jalalabad road, through the treacherous mountain pass to Nangarhar province, former home of al -Qaeda. In Torkhum, they waited in line for 12 hours before reaching the border post. A problem arose because their visas were only valid for one other border crossing, but the Pakistanis eventually let them through and they drove to Islamabad.
For two months they lived in a guest house in the capital while waiting for IRCC to process their applications. Finally, on April 21, six months after they first applied to Canada, they boarded a chartered flight to Calgary.
Ahmadi rented an apartment in a quiet complex in Edmonton, where 825 Afghans settled last year, compared to 3,240 in Calgary and another 65 in Airdrie, Lethbridge and Red Deer. Friends from Afghanistan live in the same house.
There is a school nearby and shops in town where he can buy bread, which is the staple of Afghan cuisine. A greenbelt descends to the North Saskatchewan River and the Rockies rise to the southwest. He chose Edmonton because he knew other Afghans there, but the familiar geography also offered some comfort.
IRCC said in a statement it remains committed to bringing 40,000 Afghans to Canada by 2024, but said the agency faces challenges in getting them out of Afghanistan and ensuring communities are ready “to help them integrate successfully.” “.
Tarin, 24, lives with his wife in the same apartment building as his cousin Ahmadi. He doesn’t have a work permit yet. He was sitting on the floor in his apartment drinking saffron tea. He said he wants to finish his political science degree, which he started at Kandahar University, and pursue a career in the Canadian government. In the meantime, he’s trying to bring his extended family to Canada.
Ahmadi also said his siblings remain vulnerable under the Taliban. He has tried to help them leave but said their immigration cases went nowhere. He fears that they will suffer the same fate as Nazifa at the hands of vengeful Taliban. “My main concern is to bring them here to Canada,” he said.
There is no shrine to Nazifa in Ahmadi’s apartment. The family does not remember her in any way. It’s too painful. All they have are the photos and videos on their phones. Her eldest son asks about his big sister. Ahmadi tells him that they had to leave her behind.
“You can imagine how it feels,” Ahmadi said through an interpreter. “I’m fine here, but I feel unhappy because my daughter isn’t here. I feel scared, I feel crazy for losing a loved one.”
He has hopes for his sons aged eight, three and one month. He wants them to get an education and “become something, a doctor, an engineer.” It was late, but he went to his apartment and took her outside. The three-year-old flashed the peace sign. Ahmadi cradled the baby in his arms.
His name is Mohammad Siraj. It means light in Arabic. Ahmadi said it was the testimony of a family who lost but made a promising new beginning. “That’s why I chose this name,” he said. “Because I feel good in Canada.”
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https://globalnews.ca/news/9051626/afghanistan-taliban-canada-daughter-killed/ EXCLUSIVE: A Canadian Forces operative flees to Alberta after daughter is killed by Taliban