Inside the Kabul safe houses where Afghans wait to be evacuated to Canada – National

From the road, it appears to be like like simply one other Kabul compound, however that’s the purpose. The households inside don’t wish to be discovered. They’re hiding from the Taliban who patrol town of their pickups.

Occupied by former staff of Canada’s navy mission in Afghanistan, the compound is self-contained in order that they don’t should exit, the place they threat getting stopped and questioned.

Behind a heavy gate, there’s a courtyard so filled with children it’s like a playground at recess, in addition to a big eating corridor and rooms the place virtually 250 Afghans keep whereas they wait to flee to Canada.

“A few of them had been carpenters, a few of them had been mechanics, a few of them had been interpreters,” mentioned Mohammad Umer, a former Canadian Forces interpreter residing on the secure home.

“Don’t go away us alone.”

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At an Islamabad hotel, Afghans who worked for Canada’s military await a new life

Lots of of Afghans left behind by Canada’s stalled evacuation effort are scattered all through Kabul in secure homes like this. The areas of the residences, properties and accommodations are a intently guarded secret.

However World Information was in a position to go to three of the services final week, uncommon entry to Afghans stranded between the properties they deserted in Kandahar because the Taliban seized the nation and the promise of a brand new life in Canada.

As former staff of Canada’s navy when it was deployed to Kandahar, they had been instructed the Canadian authorities would resettle them due to the dangers they confronted beneath the Taliban.

However that promise stays unfulfilled, and since August they’ve been residing in Kabul secure homes with their households, fearing the Taliban is aware of who they’re and can come for them.

Boy at a Kabul secure home for Afghans awaiting evacuation to Canada.

Stewart Bell/World Information

A former safety guard on the Canadian base in Kandahar who’s now hiding in Kabul mentioned the Taliban had kidnapped her son, despatched her his photograph, and instructed her to show herself in.

One other mentioned the Taliban kidnapped his brother and beat him whereas asking him to disclose his location. A number of spoke of the Taliban visiting their properties in Kandahar, on the lookout for them.

“We’re their enemies,” mentioned a resident of the secure home, a former Canadian Forces interpreter who goes by Eric and didn’t need his full title printed.

“They’ll take their revenge.”

He mentioned former Canadian navy staff thought Kabul could be safe after they fled there. They didn’t imagine the Taliban wouldn’t take it. They didn’t count on the federal government to break down, but it surely did.

Gun-mounted pickups rolled into town flying white flags, claiming energy for the primary time because the Taliban was ousted in 2001 for offering secure haven to the Al Qaeda terrorist community behind the 9/11 assaults.

Taliban members pose with their flag at Massoud Circle, the place portraits of the anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud have been torn down.

Stewart Bell/World Information

Their arrival was chilling for Eric.

When he labored at Ahead Operation Base Graceland, he mentioned he bought threats from the Taliban within the type of cellphone calls and letters. His uncle, who labored for the U.S. forces, was shot useless whereas on his means dwelling, he mentioned.

With the Taliban on the doorstep of Kandahar, Eric packed up his household and fled to Kabul in June. He utilized for resettlement per week after this system was introduced in July, he mentioned.

Although he obtained his visa in August, Kabul airport was chaos. Crowds thronged the airport and he couldn’t discover any Canadians to assist him get on an evacuation flight.

Since then, he’s been residing in a top-floor room on the secure home. There aren’t any extra planes, and the land borders require visas which are exhausting to get, particularly for these missing passports. He largely stays indoors.

“The setting shouldn’t be secure,” he mentioned. “It’s dangerous to be right here.”

Kids at a secure home for Afghans awaiting evacuation to Canada.

Stewart Bell/World Information

Canadian navy veterans have been in a position to extract virtually 300 Afghans to Pakistan in convoys, however they mentioned one other 10,000 resettlement functions remained within the nation.

Canada’s door is open however out of attain.

Emails despatched to the Canadian authorities about his case generate auto-replies, he mentioned. Afghans helped the Canadian Forces after they had been in his nation, Eric mentioned.

“Nicely, it’s time for them to assist us.”

The secure homes had been meant to be non permanent shelters, short-term lodging for at-risk Afghans whereas they transited between Kandahar and Canada, however evacuations have all however ended.

And with the resettlement course of lagging, the Canadian non-profit that operates the services, Aman Lara, mentioned it was operating out of cash and must start shutting them on Nov. 5.

Former Canadian Forces worker Driver Gafar exhibits an e mail authorizing him to journey to Canada, however he mentioned he remained stranded at a Kabul secure home.

Stewart Bell/World Information

Sitting within the secure home eating corridor with greater than 40 Afghan males, who all declare to have hyperlinks to Canada’s navy, Umer mentioned the households had depleted their financial savings and had nowhere else to go.

Even when that they had cash, financial institution withdrawals are restricted to $200 per week, because of the nation’s financial disaster. “That is actually a stressed time for all of them,” Umer mentioned.

Solely 40 per cent of the households on the secure home are permitted for resettlement to Canada, however there may be means out of Afghanistan anyway, he mentioned.

There are few evacuation flights and Pakistan is troublesome to enter.

Kabul, October 2021.

Stewart Bell/World Information

These residing on the secure home mentioned they had been annoyed on the gradual tempo of their immigration instances, and the Canadian authorities’s failure to assist them go away the nation.

“Pace up the evacuation course of,” Umer mentioned.

Taliban members and officers assured World Information in interviews they’d not retaliate towards Afghans who labored for the Canadian and different worldwide forces through the 20-year battle.

However few in Kabul give a lot weight to what the Taliban has been saying because it makes an attempt to steer the world to acknowledge it as Afghanistan’s new authorities and re-open the movement of worldwide support.

Having witnessed the Taliban’s conduct over the previous 25 years, and the way in which it threatened and focused Afghans who supported the coalition forces, there are widespread fears of a looming crackdown.

Kids at a Kabul secure home for Afghans ready to be evacuated to Canada.

Stewart Bell/World Information

Based on some Afghans, it’s already underway.

A mom of two, Dorkhani, confirmed World Information a certificates of appreciation she obtained in 2006 for her contribution to the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Staff in Kandahar.

As a member of a neighborhood safety staff, she carried out physique searches of girls for the Canadian Forces. She additionally had a certificates from the U.S. Military.

Six months in the past, she mentioned her son, 22, a former driver for the Canadian Forces, was killed when the Taliban bombed his automobile. She left Kandahar for Kabul three days later.

However final week she mentioned her 19-year-old son was kidnapped by the Taliban in Kandahar. The Taliban bought her cellphone quantity from her son and despatched her messages on WhatsApp, telling her to show herself in.

When she refused, they threatened her, calling her a slave of the infidels. Her son was launched after three days. She mentioned the Taliban hated her as a result of she labored for the worldwide forces.

She mentioned she had utilized for resettlement to Canada however didn’t know the place her case stood.

A room at a Kabul secure home for Afghans making an attempt to get to Canada.

Stewart Bell/World Information

At one other secure home in a unique a part of Kabul, the bolted entrance gate opens to a kids’s slide. Out again, three children play on a swing set.

The home has burgundy carpets and a basement stocked with meals, drinks and medication. A spiral staircase connects ranges occupied by eight households. All are ready to search out their approach to Canada.

“The Taliban are telling us, ‘You helped the Canadian Forces, you might be infidels,’” mentioned Alokozay, a secure home resident who didn’t need his full title printed.

“Simply get is out of this Afghanistan.”

Learn extra:
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On one other degree, a person who mentioned the Canadian troops nicknamed him Driver Gafar sat on a cushion surrounded by his children, recalling how he had escorted Canadian navy convoys round Kandahar, utilizing his data of native roads to maintain the troops secure.

As Kandahar was falling to the Taliban in July, Gafar utilized for resettlement to Canada. He left his barbershop and grocery retailer to convey his spouse and 7 kids to Kabul, solely to search out it was a useless finish.

“In the event that they catch me they’ll do dangerous issues to me,” he mentioned of the Taliban, including that they had already kidnapped his son.

Former Canadian Forces worker Driver Gafar and his son, 13, kidnapped by the Taliban when he strayed from their Kabul secure home.

Stewart Bell/World Information

In mid-September, the 13-year-old left the secure home with out permission to get ice cream and was caught by the Taliban.

They took him to the Panjshir Valley, the place the Taliban was combating the remnants of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance rebels.

“There have been rockets, there have been gunshots in all places, so I used to be very afraid,” the boy mentioned in an interview.

Put to work within the kitchen, he hauled water, washed dishes and helped with the cooking, he mentioned. He was then moved south to Helmand Province, the place his father lastly discovered him. He had been lacking for 18 days.

Gafar mentioned he wished to get his kids to Canada so they may reside with out worry and return to highschool. “That is an important for us,” he mentioned. “All we want from Canadians is to push our instances.”

World Information met dozens of Afghans with related accounts of leaving their properties and jobs in Kandahar, and transferring to Kabul with the understanding that Canada would evacuate them.

Many had photographs displaying them working with the Canadian Forces, in addition to certificates of appreciation from the Canadian navy — though others mentioned that they had burned their data so the Taliban wouldn’t discover them.

Haji Toor Jan has photographs displaying him working with the Canadian Forces, however mentioned he’s stranded in Kabul.

Stewart Bell/World Information

Some confirmed emails indicating that they had been accepted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Others mentioned their immigration instances had been being processed and questioned the tempo of Canada’s resettlement program.

“The method is basically dangerous,” mentioned Abdul Baqi, who mentioned he was referred to as Haji Toor Jan when he was head of safety on the Canadian Armed Forces camp in Kandahar.

Since fleeing to Kabul, he mentioned he had been transferring weekly to keep away from the Taliban. He disguises himself by carrying glasses and switches his clothes, he mentioned.

He mentioned whereas a handful of former colleagues had made it to Pakistan and on to Toronto, he was annoyed to be among the many many left behind to fend for themselves.

“The folks that must be evacuated quickly are nonetheless right here,” he mentioned.

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