'I can't leave them,' says Kitchener man who went to Kabul to help family

Wasai Rahimi hoped to help his family leave Afghanistan when he saw the situation deteriorating. The Kitchener man is still there, changing locations every night out of fear for his safety.

Wasai Rahimi travelled to Afghanistan and now changes locations every night, fearing for his safety

Wasai Rahimi, president of the Afghan Association of Waterloo Region, remains in Kabul after travelling to Afghanistan to help family following the government's collapse. (Tom Legrady)

Warning: This story contains graphic details. 

Wasai Rahimi remains in Kabul after travelling to the Afghan capital and is now living in fear. 

The Kitchener, Ont., man was in Afghanistan with a project that aims to help women enter the workforce and live independently.

As the situation in the country quickly began to deteriorate, Rahimi hoped to help his project staff and family escape after the Taliban swept into Kabul following the government's collapse. 

Instead, Rahimi is still in Kabul, changing locations every night out of fear for his safety. While Rahimi believes he could find a way back to Canada himself, he won't leave the others behind. 

"I can't leave them. I'd rather to die with them," said Rahimi, president of the Afghan Association of Waterloo Region and executive director of iHELP International. 

People in Kabul are losing hope, Rahimi said. He has one relative, a journalist, who is in hiding. Another, who worked with the previous government, had his home searched, though Rahimi said his relative wasn't home at the time. 

"They beat his son to force him to show the whereabouts of his father, but he didn't tell them," Rahimi said. 

Witness to explosion

Rahimi himself was near the Kabul airport the day of the explosion and witnessed it first hand. 

"The explosion killed over 100 people in front of me," said Rahimi. "All around me there was pieces of human bodies, but fortunately, I was safe from that."

Rahimi said he tried to reach the embassy and had his assistant contact his local MP, Marwan Tabbara, but had no response. 

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Tabbara told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo he tried to return the call but couldn't get through. He's posted information on his social media pages about how people can reach Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRFF) for help with the situation in Afghanistan. 

"The best thing for them to do is to reach out to [IRCC] because they're the ones that are facilitating everything on the ground," said Tabbara.

Election issue

Members of the group Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace have loved ones in Afghanistan. Members include, top row, left to right: Marjila Yousof, Marwa Saleem, Yasna Taieb, Frishta Bastan, Banin Abdul Khaliq. Bottom row, left to right: Mina Saboor, Irena Faiz, Khalidha Nasiri, Lina Rahguzar, Sheba Yusufzai, Moska Rokay. (Submitted by Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace)

Meanwhile, a group of Canadians with loved ones in Afghanistan wants the government to step up and do more. They also want to make the plight of Afghan citizens an election issue. 

The Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace wants Canada to: 

  • Expand the Afghan resettlement program.
  • Provide immediate humanitarian assistance and aid.
  • Engage in diplomacy on the issue of human rights in Afghanistan.
  • Push for the rights of girls, women, ethnic and religious minorities to be respected.

Canada has said it expects to resettle a total of about 20,000 vulnerable Afghans, including Afghan nationals outside the country. 

That number needs to be far higher, according to Yasna Taieb, the Kitchener-Waterloo representative for the campaign. She wants Canada to accept 40,000 refugees this year and up to 95,000 over the next two years. 

"The 20,000 that is said at the moment is simply not enough," said Taieb. "Canada can and should do more." 

Canadian government announces plans to bring in 20,000 Afghan refugees

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The government has announced a new program to bring in 20,000 refugees who've fled the Taliban's advance in Afghanistan, but critics say it falls short of what's really needed and it comes too late.

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo asked IRCC whether the 20,000 number still stands, but did not immediately hear back.

As for Rahimi, he's left with many questions about the decisions that led to this point. 

"Why this international military came to Afghanistan, why they spent trillions of dollars here … why they just handed into terrorists again," he said. 

"They left everyone behind here, even in the worst situation … What was their achievement?" 

With files from Muriel Draaisma