Afghan athlete calls on Canadian government to speed up refugee resettlement

Shortly after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Friba Rezayee’s phone began to light up with messages from women and girls begging for help.

Rezayee, who made history as one of Afghanistan’s first two Olympians in 2004, now lives in Vancouver. She founded Women Leaders of Tomorrow to support women and girls in Afghanistan through education and sport opportunities.

“The students, the members, as well as the athletes we supported, begged for their lives, they begged for their safety,” she said.

“Friba, take me out, take me out, the Taliban are back,” Rezayee said.

Rezayee is one of several defenders who are trying to help as best they can, but she said she has felt lost since Canada ended evacuation efforts on August 26.

“I am very angry,” she said. “Canada and all NATO countries had and still have a responsibility to protect women’s rights, human rights and democracy.

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The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said in a statement that Canada and its allies have received assurances from the Taliban that Afghan citizens with travel authorization from other countries will be allowed to leave the country. Afghanistan.

“Until the security situation stabilizes in Afghanistan, people should be attentive to the security environment and, if possible, take the necessary measures to ensure their safety and that of their families,” he said.

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The ministry says staff have worked tirelessly to answer calls and emails from people in Afghanistan seeking help and advice. Its main objective is to identify the number of Canadians and permanent residents who remain in the country and to work with allies to provide them with essential support.

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About 1,250 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and members of their families have been left behind, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.

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The government has also pledged to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals, including those who have supported Canada’s work in Afghanistan, their families and those who fall under Canada’s “humanitarian commitment” such as women, activists. rights and journalists.

The Immigration Department says 3,700 evacuees, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, were evacuated before August 26. As of September 6, it had received 11,400 applications and approved 7,100. Under special programs, 2,200 Afghan refugees have arrived in Canada.

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Rezayee said she was particularly concerned about the country’s female athletes.

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It was a privilege to compete in the Olympics, but after her return she was threatened with death by those who thought it was inappropriate for a woman to be an athlete and she had to go into hiding.

“It was a great honor, it was more than I could ask for,” she said. “But it also put me at high risk.”

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Renia Tyminski, an Ontario retiree who voluntarily teaches English online with Women Leaders of Tomorrow, said a woman spent five days outside Kabul airport in hopes of boarding a flight before the end of the American mission on August 31.

Tyminski said she tried to get her help through the Canadian government, but only received an electronic form acknowledging receipt.

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In the end, she put the woman’s name on a US State Department evacuation list after going through a US non-governmental organization, she said. Even though she had the papers, the woman couldn’t get the Taliban out the door.

Tyminski tried to connect with Canadian officials in a similar fashion, but couldn’t reach anyone on the phone, she said.

“We tried, but quite honestly there was more reaction from the American side. I was in contact by phone, in email conversations with several organizations as well, ”she said.

Tyminski said she contacted her local MP, who directed her to contacts with the Canadian Air Force and the Immigration Department, but only received a form via email in response.

“They acknowledged my email but offered no help.”

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Afghan women in hiding under full Taliban control

Afghan women in hiding under full Taliban control – September 4, 2021

The department said it was unable to provide specific details on the cases due to privacy and security concerns for those involved.

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Tyminski says the young woman is weighing her options but it’s hard to know what to do, especially given conflicting messages from Canadian officials.

Garneau said the government was reaching out to Pakistan and other countries neighboring Afghanistan to facilitate the entry of people with ties to Canada. But he also noted that the government advises against such trips.

Tyminski said getting to the Pakistani border would require passing Taliban checkpoints and for now the woman is in hiding.

“It’s a lot of guesswork going on,” she said.

© 2021 The Canadian Press