As Afghanistan descends into chaos, a Winnipeg man who spent a decade working in the country is trying to get hundreds of friends and former colleagues out alive.
Zobair Deen, a former NATO adviser and political analyst who was born in Afghanistan, says he is afraid for the safety of many people he knows in the country who worked with NATO forces, as well as other foreign aid and civil society workers.
According to Deen, the Taliban are “beginning to collect the list for their potential targeted killings and also detentions.”
He says the Taliban have been going door to door searching for people, so he’s using his military and NATO contacts to try to get his friends and colleagues flights out of the country.
In one dramatic scene, Deen says a friend was shot at while trying to drive his armoured car to catch a flight out.
“He had to abandon his car in the middle of the road, and he ran for his life to make it to the airport.”
That friend managed to make it on a plane out, but Deen says there are many more in danger.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday Canada is prepared to send more military flights into the country to evacuate more Afghans after heartbreaking scenes emerged from Kabul of people so desperate to get out that they clung to a departing U.S. Air Force transport plane and plunged to their deaths.
The Taliban gained control of Kabul, the capital, on Sunday, the latest development in the insurgents’ swift overpowering of the Afghanistan government and Western-trained security forces over the last three months.
A man pulls a girl over a wall to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday. Many in the country fear a Taliban government will reimpose a brutal regime that will all but eliminate women’s rights. (Reuters) Fear for women’s rights
Deen says he’s also trying to find safe houses for women’s rights activists and female parliamentarians.
Many are fearful that a Taliban government would reimpose a brutal regime that will all but eliminate women’s rights.
“They’ve had a campaign of kill and destroy for the last 20 years, so they cannot be trusted,” he said.
“So they don’t have any plans. They don’t have any visions. They have no experience in governance. They have no experience in respecting women’s rights.”
Ariana Yaftali was born in Kabul and has been watching the news closely from Winnipeg as her home country faces a humanitarian crisis.
She says women she knows there who worked in government are in hiding.
“Right now, I don’t even know where they are.”
Hope of returning shattered
Yaftali says she was proud of the progress Afghanistan had made toward women’s rights in the last two decades, and is worried that it will all be for nothing.
“Everything is basically gone now, and I’m not sure if they can return back to work, or what kind of government they are bringing,” she said.
“I’m worried about their safety, I’m worried about their security and I’m worried that there won’t be any more Afghan women we will see in politics and business, in education.”
Yaftali says she wanted to return to Afghanistan one day, maybe even to stay, but now, she fears that dream is dead.
“Unfortunately, that hope has been shattered. My heart is crying and my hands are tied and I can’t do anything.”
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