An Ottawa man, currently stuck in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, is desperately waiting to hear if he will get a spot on a Canadian plane out of the country.
Canada resumed military flights into Kabul on Thursday, and the Department of National Defence has said it will continue operating flights to and from Afghanistan as long as “the security situation on the ground permits.”
Amir is desperate to make it onto one of those flights. As the Taliban tightens its grip on the capital, he believes his window for escape is narrowing.
Amir is not his real name — CBC has agreed to protect his identity out of concern for his safety.
“It’s very terrifying because I’ve never been in this kind of situation,” said Amir, who is currently hiding at a family member’s home. “I feel like my life is in danger because I am a Canadian, so I don’t go outside much.”
He says he has heard sounds of protests and gunfire outside the house.
Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul earlier this week. According to people in the city, Taliban forces have a heavy presence there, making travel to the airport dangerous. (Rahmat Gul/AP) Stranded in Kabul
Amir and his girlfriend of seven years, Michelle de la Salle, have been trying to get him safe passage home to Ottawa for about a month.
After he was unable to board his scheduled flight out of Afghanistan due to delayed COVID-19 test results, Amir went to seek help from the Canadian Embassy, but by the time he arrived on Aug.15, he says the embassy was empty.
Since then, Amir has been trying to secure a spot on a Canadian military airlift as soon as possible. There are American forces present at the Kabul airport, but they currently plan to withdraw from Afghanistan completely by Aug. 31, leaving the airport vulnerable to the Taliban.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday the planes Canada sends to Kabul airport will likely have to leave with some empty seats. He told reporters this was because of the Taliban’s efforts to prevent people from leaving the country.
Amir was able to get a commercial flight booked for Sept. 7, but suspects it will be too late for him to safely escape.
“All the commercial flights are closed off,” he said.
The federal government is directing Canadians in Afghanistan who need consular assistance to Global Affairs Canada.
De la Salle says she has received confirmation that Amir is registered as a citizen abroad, but has not been able to get any information about upcoming flights out of Kabul.
“I’m just really hoping to get more answers from the government soon and more direction, more information, just anything,” de la Salle said. “Time frames would be helpful … I don’t understand why Canada is being so slow.”
Crowds of people are seen on the tarmac at Kabul’s airport on Aug.16, 2021. The chaos at the airport earlier this week worries those hoping for flights out of the country that they could face danger boarding. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)
Global Affairs says it is continuing to remain in contact with Canadians in Afghanistan, “including verifying personal information and communicating next steps,” spokesperson Jason Kung said in an email.
He said that they could not provide details about operations due to security concerns.
‘I feel abandoned’
Even if Amir does secure a flight through the Canadian government, that’s not a guarantee he’ll make it home.
Amir says Taliban forces have a heavy presence in the city, making travel dangerous.
“There’s no way to get the airport. I don’t know where to go.”
The chaos at the Kabul airport last Tuesday, in which at least seven people died trying to board or cling to a U.S. air force plane, has made de la Salle worried Amir could face danger boarding.
“It’ll be chaotic and people will still be trying to ambush planes and people will be left behind,” she said.
Amir says it is difficult to be optimistic with so many unknowns. “Sometimes I feel hopeless because I feel abandoned. … I feel like they’re not even giving consideration to the citizens still here.”
He says he wishes the Canadian government would provide more information to citizens trying to leave Afghanistan about future flights.
“It would give us some hope, you know?”
Scource From CBC News