Manitoba

Pleas for Canada to grant Afghan widow, baby, asylum after father shot and killed

A Winnipeg couple, who say their son was executed after his family allowed his sisters to go to school, is begging the Canadian government to help bring their daughter-in-law and her two-year-old son to Canada.

Winnipeg couple believes son was killed for being part of ethnic minority, allowing girls to study abroad

A Winnipeg couple, who say their son was executed after his family allowed his sisters to go to school abroad, is begging the Canadian government to help bring their daughter-in-law and grandson out of hiding in Afghanistan to Canada. 1:56

A Winnipeg couple, who say their son was executed after his family allowed his sisters to go to school abroad, is begging the Canadian government to help bring their daughter-in-law and grandson out of hiding in Afghanistan to Canada.

CBC has agreed to conceal the identity of the family out of concerns it could draw attention to their loved ones in hiding. 

"I'm the unluckiest mother who never got to see her son … I came here with the hope that I will be saving them," said the mother of the slain man while fighting back tears speaking through a translator. "I'm living with that hope and this life otherwise doesn't mean anything to me."

The woman said she last saw her son three years ago in Afghanistan. He was shot and executed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, last September and his family believes the Taliban is behind the killing.

She and her husband are asking Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for an emergency intervention and have written to MP and federal cabinet minister Jim Carr, asking for help.

'We don't know what's going to happen to them'

"That's the worst feeling that you can have and knowing that he has left a young wife and innocent child at risk and we don't know what's going to happen to them to them at any moment," said the woman's husband, who talked about the pain of losing a son.
This woman along her husband are begging the Canadian government to help bring their daughter-in-law and grandson out of hiding in Afghanistan and to Winnipeg after the boy's father was shot. (Tanner Grywinski/CBC)

"Right now I'm sitting here I'm not knowing what kind of situation they are (in), wondering whether they are alive."

The widowed mother in Afghanistan wrote to an IRCC case processing agent in February explaining how hard life has been for her and her son since her husband's killing.

"Due to the inequality and discrimination against women, a child without a father in Afghanistan, even with a mother, is like with no parent," she wrote.

Parents granted asylum in 2015

Her father-in-law and his wife came to Winnipeg as refugees in 2015 and provided CBC with documentation of the Immigration and Refugee Board member's decision to grant them asylum.

In the decision, the board member found the family was at risk due to their Hazara ethnicity and Shia faith. The board member wrote that after one of the couple's daughters returned to Afghanistan from going to school abroad in the U.S. and Europe, the family started getting threatening phone calls.

The family says it received a death threat in a letter from the Taliban after word got out they had allowed their girls to study abroad. In March 2015, the dad received several calls where the caller accused him and his family of being infidels and received death threats for anti-Islamic conduct.
Afghan school girls receive medical treatment at a local hospital in 2015 after being admitted for symptoms of poisoning. Some blame sympathizers of the Taliban, who oppose women education at schools. (Jalil Rezayee/EPA)

"The conduct in question was allowing his daughters to go to the USA to study," the IRB decision says.

Applied for help in India

While the couple's son was alive, he took his family to India where the family made an application for refugee status to the High Commissioner for Refugees in New Delhi. The family went back to Afghanistan to attend a funeral and the son was killed less than a month later.

The family says reality for women living in Afghanistan is grim and widows are at special risk.
The Afghan man said it's unsettling not knowing what could happen to his grandson and daughter-in-law. (Tanner Grywinski/CBC)

"They don't have any form of rights," said the 58-year-old woman. She said she never felt she had rights throughout her life in Afghanistan.

A recent BBC study found Taliban fighters are now openly active in 70 per cent of Afghanistan and a Human Rights Watch Report released late last year found an estimated two-thirds of Afghan girls do not attend school.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen once they are stepping up out of their homes whether or not they are going to be blown up by a bomb explosion," the 58-year-old woman said. 

Canada could step in: lawyer 

Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas said Canada could give a visa to the mother and her baby in Kabul but under regular circumstances, to get refugee status, the two would have to leave Afghanistan to apply for asylum.

"Mechanically it could happen, it's just a matter of whether the right steps are taken and the right decisions are made," Matas said.

Security forces walk towards the Intercontinental Hotel after a deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. (Massoud Hossaini/Associated Press)
An application can be made based on humanitarian grounds in an applicant's home country but the process can take years.

The father said he and his wife are grateful to Canada for granting them refuge and hope the government will step in and do the same for his grandchild and daughter-in-law before it's too late.

"If they don't these two lives will be at risk and I may have to see what I can do even if it may be putting my own life at risk of doing something about the situation."

A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Carr's press secretary declined to comment on the case citing privacy laws.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca