At 2 a.m. on Friday, they received the word – “meet at the airport” – the signal they had been eagerly awaiting for days.
Canadian authorities were urging a group of 15 Afghan Canadian men, women and children, including a baby, to come to the front door of the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
“We have been told that when we arrive at the scene there will be Canadian and American soldiers or guards who will escort us and ensure that we can actually enter the airport,” Aleem said. “This does not happen.”
Aleem is not his real name and CBC News is protecting his identity for security reasons.
Armed with their passports, permanent resident cards and small maple leaf flags, they gathered to pass through multiple Taliban checkpoints. They were not attacked and arrived at the front door of the airport, but in front of them was a scene of chaos, despair and violence.
“We took all the risks”
Frantically waving the red and white flags and showing off their Canadian passports, at the risk of exposing their identities to a desperate crowd, they attempted to attract the attention of the line of mostly American soldiers.
“We took all the risks in the hope that our families could call and someone would say, ‘Yes, you are Canadian, introduce yourself. “”
Instead, the soldiers fired near the crowds and into the air, hoping to disperse the thousands who thronged the entrance.
“They were shooting at us all the time. There were women, children who were shaking and shaking from the sound,” Aleem said.
“The soldiers were just shooting; they were overwhelmed by the crowd standing in front of them, ”he told CBC News. “It is a passage to death much less than a passage to safety and security.”
Hundreds of Afghan Canadians stranded
Hundreds, if not more, of Afghan Canadians are trapped in Kabul – professionals with careers and jobs in international organizations, with long-standing ties to Canada, who are now terrified that their lives will be lost. in danger after the Taliban took control of the capital a week ago. The militant group now has authority over most of the country.
Despite initial assurances from the Taliban that people who worked with countries that waged a 20-year war with the militant group would not be wanted and punished, several reports indicate Taliban fighters are door-to-door in some neighborhoods to take names and apprehend people and goods.
Aleem’s group are on a Canadian evacuation list, and they hoped they would be safe inside the airport perimeter soon – joining thousands of others fleeing the grueling last week in Afghanistan when their world changed overnight.
A Canadian military plane took 188 people out of Kabul on Thursday evening, the first Canadian airlift since the Afghan government collapsed last Sunday as the Taliban entered the capital.
“We now have two of our biggest airlines coming and going from Kabul. We will maintain these flights as long as possible,” Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday.
A total of 8,000 to date have been safely evacuated by several countries since Sunday, according to NATO, but there are growing concerns that Canada’s evacuation effort has been slower than other countries. .
PM says evacuation flights will continue
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, harassed by questions about Afghanistan in the first week of the federal election campaign, admitted that not everyone who wants or is eligible will come out, but he again vowed that the flights evacuation would continue.
“I can tell you that everyone is working incredibly hard day and night to try to get as many people as possible out of Afghanistan to safety,” he said on Friday during an election stopover in Winnipeg.
The United States rescued 169 people by helicopter from a hotel near the airport on Thursday when they could not reach a front door.
Trudeau did not respond when asked if Canadian authorities could collect people in the city and bring them safely to the airport.
The prime minister also harshly criticized the Taliban, who strictly control several checkpoints on the roads leading to the airport. There were reports of beatings and other violence as they tried to stem the flow of people determined to leave the country.
Although this was a dangerous barrier for many, Aleem’s group was able to get through, only to find themselves stranded right at the gate.
Aleem’s supporters in Canada have alerted senior government officials in the Prime Minister’s and Foreign Minister’s offices that he and his family are in danger and have issued an urgent appeal for help. “It’s not that they don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
Frustrating Federal Election Triggers
He is frustrated with the timing of an election campaign launched during an international crisis.
“I’m talking about Canada’s sole responsibility to protect and secure its citizens. Where is that reality right now for 15 Canadian lives? How can I ask that question of Justin Trudeau right now on the election campaign?” Aleem asked rhetorically.
He added that “there is no guarantee that we will succeed. [out] alive, unless something urgently needs to be done. ”
The group returned from the gate on Friday, fearing they would be trampled, injured or killed in the melee, then had to make the dangerous journey back into town. They have left their home and cannot return, so they stay together in an undisclosed location.
“We need a solution,” Aleem said, imploring a contact to help them.
They say they will try to get to the airport again. “We have no choice, our lives are in danger where we are now – and the longer we delay, the more dire the consequences will be for Canadians.”