Some are calling it the darkest day in the history of Afghanistan.
The Taliban have officially taken over the country two decades after they were overthrown by a U.S.-led invasion and Afghan-Canadians in Victoria say they feel helpless and are mourning the loss of their home country.
Nargis Kiewiet, an Afghan-Canadian Vancouver Island resident, said she felt horrified when she heard the news.
“All Afghans are grieving the loss of our nation. The loss of the country in the last 20 years. They worked so hard. There was democracy and freedom for women. It wasn’t a lot, but it was still a lot better than what they’re about to face for the next who knows how long,” she said.
Morsal Niazi, another Afghan-Canadian Victoria resident, said it was startling to see the videos posted online showing thousands of Afghan civilians at the Kabul airport desperately trying to flee the country — many chasing and clinging onto a moving jet.
“The Afghan people are seeking to live in peace and have basic human rights and those human rights are being violated presently,” said Niazi.”It’s devastating to see a nation fall.”
A woman in Kabul, who is hiding her identity over fears of being caught by the Taliban, described the situation as helpless and said it is heartbreaking to see how far people will go to try and get out of Afghanistan. She also said she’s being told by neighbours that she should burn any evidence of her education and “being westernized” — something she refuses to do.
“They are telling me to burn my identity,” she told CHEK News.
Kiewiet said watching everything unfold from a distance is heart-wrenching.
“Right now, we’re all living our worst nightmare all over again. We’re lucky. We’re fortunate we’re here, but the rest of our family is there. And it’s not just the fear of my family, it’s that nation. That country. Our people,” she said.
“It’s life or death for the people of Afghanistan right now. It might seem that this is a politically driven and peaceful transition of government. It’s not,” added Niazi.
I just spoke to a young woman in Kabul who says she feels helpless.
She’s being told by neighbours that she should burn any evidence of her education and “being westernized” which she refuses to.
“They’re telling me to burn my identity.”
— Tahmina Aziz (@tahmina_aziz) August 16, 2021
On the political front, U.S. President Joe Biden made it clear — he has no regrets.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw from U.S. forces,” he said on Monday.
Despite feeling helpless, many in the diaspora are trying to find ways to assist those back home, including Afghan rights activist Mina Sharif, who’s spent 15 years working in the country.
“My anguish right now is out of having actually lived with Afghans with are just the most dignified people that I have ever known,” she said. “They’re dignified people with a history of 5,000 years and they’ve been played with. And now they’ve been conquered.”
A group of Afghan-Canadians across the country are launching a campaign called Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace this week, calling on the government to expand the Afghan resettlement program, provide immediate humanitarian aid and protection to everyone at home, especially most at-risk under the Taliban regime.
There are also protests organized around the world set for Aug. 28 to raise awareness of what’s taking place in Afghanistan.