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A year under Taliban rule, Afghans fear Canada has left them behind

On the day the Taliban overran Afghanistan, Sadia fled her office in Kabul and hid at a friend's house . As the manager of a Canada-funded women's project, she knew what a Taliban revival would mean.

A year later, she's still hiding.

"Canada left us behind," said Sadia, 32. Global does not use her real name because she fears retaliation. "We helped Canada. They must not forget us.

'They should get us out of here.' About 17,000 Afghans have arrived in Canada through resettlement programs since they took power on August 15, 2015, amid the withdrawal of US troops.

Yet thousands of people endangered for work in Canada remain stranded in cities like Kabul, and lost in neighboring countries like Pakistan. Some people are.

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Downtown while Taliban fighters stand guard Afghan women walk through an old market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi). (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

"They were in one of two very bad places, and they were contacted by Canada. “They face the greatest risk, according to groups trying to help them,” said Lauryn Oates, executive director of Canadian Women for Afghan Women. These are Afghans who have worked in the Canadian military or in Canada's development programs.

said Oliver Thorne, executive director of the Veterans Transition Network, which has been evacuating Afghans who assisted in the mission.

Waiting is stressful for Afghans, he said, as they do not know whether their families should prepare to leave or prepare to accept life under the Taliban. rice field.

"Those people live in a very high degree of uncertainty."

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Canadian officials said they aim to meet the goal of resettling 40,000 Afghans by 2024.

READ MORE: Hopes dashed by Taliban return, Kabul women see no future in Afghanistan

Sadia said she didn't know what to do.

A mother of four, she clashed directly with Afghanistan's new rulers for her work in the Canadian Women's Entrepreneurship Program.

"The Taliban are against women's empowerment," she said.

When the Taliban returned to power, they made it a priority to undo the gains made by women over the past two decades. Women are now largely absent from public life.

The Women's Ministry was dismantled and there were no women ministers. Afghanistan is the only country in the world that bans girls from entering high school. Women are allowed to work outside the home only in limited cases. They are also not allowed to show their face or leave the house without a male escort.

"Afghanistan is not the only country in the world where women's rights are in retreat," said Alison Davidian, the UN Women in Afghanistan representative. “But what is happening in Afghanistan is a wake-up call for all of us, showing that decades of progress on gender equality and women’s rights could literally be wiped out in a matter of months.

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Since the Taliban took control of Kabul, , several images depicting women outside a hair salon have been removed or covered. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue).

Concerned that they have been abandoned by the Taliban, Sadia and Global Affairs work on her Canadian Women's Project. Other Afghans in the country sent reports. Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie on June 8.

It documented the threats they received, claiming that three of his colleagues had been killed and one had been kidnapped and tortured.

"All individuals who have worked for Canada's mission, particularly those involved in gender-based violence and women's empowerment efforts, are at grave risk," reported the report. read the book ``Don't leave us behind.''

Among those mentioned in the report was a man who identified himself as Sabir, whose real name was Global for safety reasons. not. He told Global News that the Taliban do not trust former employees of international non-governmental groups.

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"They call us Canadian spies," he said.

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Read More: Taliban Are Afghan Women​

On May 30, an unidentified caller called Sabir to tell him about his past with Canadian aid groups. said he.

He was accused of misleading women into becoming independent. His tweet about Taliban misconduct was highlighted. The caller reportedly warned his father of three that he and his family would be killed.

He said he had gone into hiding by deleting his social media accounts, but that his resettlement application filed a year earlier remained pending.

"We have provided loyal service to the Canadian government in Afghanistan, but so far we have not heard a hopeful response," he said in a telephone interview from Afghanistan. ``I'm scared of dying when''

Sabir is one of about 200 former employees of the Canadian project who formed a discussion group on his WhatsApp messaging application in March. discussed life under the Taliban regime and the quest for resettlement.

The Taliban learned of the group's existence in June when they searched the phone of one of his chat members. Since then, the main contributor has been on the run, six of them he told Global News.

Afghans involved in Canadian development projects fear being left behind by the Taliban. Handout

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"This is us It's a bad situation for us," said one of the women. She said she had applied for resettlement to Canada a year ago but had received no response. The sole breadwinner in her family, she was unable to work or obtain a visa to travel to Pakistan.

Another woman said she was worried about her three daughters while waiting for her immigration application to be approved. "Everything has changed completely for women," she said. "I mean, you can't go anywhere. You don't see anything positive for your children's lives here." The discovery of the

WhatsApp group forced its members to go underground. They deleted their social media accounts, destroyed their SIM cards, and ditched their phones.

Last month, Sadia fled to Pakistan and created her Twitter account to put pressure on the Canadian government. That is why a former staff member of the Canadian project is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to take action.

I read one message, "We helped your government, but now we need your help."

READ MORE: Taliban seek to rebrand Kabul with white flag, but Afghans are next

Global Affairs Canada told Sadia in a recent email that Afghans with "significant IRCC).

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Those who are accepted will be asked to submit an application, the email said.

"The Government of Canada has received a significant number of requests from those interested in applying for the Special Immigration Measures (SIMs) Program for Afghans, and many Afghan nationals are seeking to immigrate to Canada under SIMs. The number of requests to come has far exceeded the program's current capacity."

An IRCC spokesperson said officials faced unique challenges in Afghanistan, noting, among other things, that "travel out of the country, both by air and by road, continues to be very difficult and dangerous." There are,” he said.

The agency also had to ensure that those arriving in Canada "landed in communities with the capacity to help them integrate successfully."

"We have accomplished a lot, but there is still work to be done. That is why we continue to process applications as expeditiously as possible and work with our international and national partners. “We are finding ways to maximize our immigration and humanitarian pathways to Canada,” said Nancy Caron.

The Taliban took control of Hamid Her Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 31 after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was completed. Wari Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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It's one of the few places," said Oates, executive director of Canadian Women for Afghan Women.

"I hear it's hard to find housing in Canada. There have been bureaucratic and administrative delays and I believe there have been policy changes. This is also a new program."

The biggest concern, Oates said, is that all 18,000 spaces in the special immigration program are being spoken.

"And the door will be closed, the program will end, and everyone else working in Canada who is eligible for this program will not hear from Canada what their status is. I've been waiting for a year now.Hope it's done for them."

She hoped the government would extend the program by 12 months to make room for more. I'm in.

The IRCC denied having terminated its special immigration program. It said 15,000 applied for 18,000 spots, with spaces also available for women leaders and other humanitarian programs for vulnerable Afghans.

A primary school girl in Kabul. The Taliban banned secondary education for girls. Stewart Bell/Global News

Sadia said she first encountered the Taliban as a child in 1996. she said. She remembered shopping at the bazaar together when her mother arrived at the bazaar and began beating the woman with her stick.

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A girl has been expelled from school. Her family fled to a refugee camp in Pakistan.

After graduating from Peshawar University in 2013, she worked in private schools and the non-profit sector before joining a women's enterprise, advocacy and training program in 2018. part of its feminist foreign policy.

Now that the Taliban are deporting her back to Pakistan again, she said there was little hope for her now, on her first anniversary from their rule.

"I always think I hate her August."

Stewart. Bell@globalnews. ca

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