An Abbotsford man who left Afghanistan three years ago is fighting to get his family members to Canada as he fears for their lives in the midst of the Taliban takeover.
Abdul, who asked that his last name not be used, said his family is in grave danger of Taliban reprisals due to the work that he and one of his brothers have done for the Canadian government.
He said his family was among the thousands who attempted daily to flee the country on government evacuation flights, but they couldn’t pass traffic checkpoints or get anywhere near the airport in Kabul.
Abdul has contacted the federal government to start the application process to bring them to Canada, but hasn’t heard back. He has also been in touch with organizations that work with refugees and immigrants.
Meanwhile, he can’t sleep at night and is unable to focus on work or school as he worries about his family.
“Everybody is in horror. They don’t know what will happen to them. They don’t know how they will survive, how they will work,” he said.
“We’re also worried a lot about the kids, about my nieces and nephews, about their education, about their future.”
Abdul, 34, is the oldest of nine siblings who were born and raised in Kandahar. He is married with three young children.
From 2010 to 2013, he worked for a private company that sub-contracted to another company to provide supplies in Afghanistan to the Canadian government. (Due to the confidential nature of the work, Abdul cannot specify the types of supplies.)
One of his brothers also does the same kind of work.
But anyone in Afghanistan who works for foreign forces or supplies them with goods becomes a target.
Abdul began receiving daily death threats – to the extent that he began “living in a bubble” and avoiding being in a public as much as possible, including going to the mosque to pray.
“When I would go to work in the morning, I would send my little brother to go and check if anyone is in the street. And when I would make sure that there is no one there, then I would quickly rush to work.”
The danger forced Abdul to move from Kandahar to Kabul, where he wasn’t known and could better blend in.
He continued to do the risky work because he felt it was important.
“Why would I give in? Why should people terrorize me to do certain stuff when I’m not doing a crime?” he said.
“The biggest question was serving my country and serving the values that everybody was working for – that was to have democracy, human rights, to have women’s rights, to have a country where one could live in peace and without harming each other and live in harmony. Those were the ideal goals we were working for.”
Abdul’s family remained in Kandahar but frequently moved locations for their safety.
In 2013, amid rumours that the situation was improving, Abdul began working for the government of Afghanistan, but maintained his connections with the coalition forces.
He was posted abroad but returned to visit his family in 2018. This is when the threats escalated – through social media and texts – and the danger to his family intensified.
“They would say that I should surrender to them, I have not been listening and I’m going to pay the price for it. And my family was threatened that they should make me, otherwise everybody’s complicit.”
Abdul can only guess at the atrocities he would have suffered had he remained in the country and not complied.
His wife and kids, who had gone with him abroad, had already moved to Canada, and Abdul decided his best option was to join them. He was accepted as a protected person in 2019.
He said being in Canada has changed his life immensely.
“Before that, I was just surviving. I couldn’t focus on anything else other than getting another day in my life … So that consumed all of my energy,” he said.
“Here in Canada I can focus on my own education, my career, my kids. My wife is taking language classes, and she’s also planning to become a midwife. She has those opportunities here.”
Abdul has worked at Archway Community Services, including as a support worker for homeless people, an administration officer and a supervisor in the seniors’ department. He hopes to eventually do some consulting work and go back to school to earn his master’s degree in business administration.
But he has currently put that all aside as he fights for his family left behind in Afghanistan. He initially hopes to bring to Canada his brother who was in the same line of work, his brother’s wife and kids, his parents, and two brothers who are not yet adults.
More than anything, Abdul wants them to be safe and have a better existence.
“They can enjoy the basic human rights. They will have the right to express their own views, what they want to wear, what they want to talk about, where they want to travel – just to live that kind of life.”