Ottawa's Afghan community rally, hoping for peace in war-torn country

More than one hundred people gathered in downtown Ottawa Saturday to call for peace in Afghanistan as the country undergoes a mass takeover by the Taliban. 

Hundreds attend rally in the city's downtown to protest against Taliban takeover

More than 100 people gathered near the National Gallery of Canada to call for peace and order in Afghanistan. In recent days, the cental Asian country has seen a mass takeover by the Taliban. (Celeste Decaire/CBC)

More than one hundred people gathered in downtown Ottawa Saturday to call for peace in Afghanistan as the country undergoes a mass takeover by the Taliban. 

The Ottawa Coalition Against War in Afghanistan organized the protest in front of the city's Three Watchmen statue near the National Gallery of Canada.

"I'm concerned for both my family and all the Afghans. It's war. Many people die in war. This is the most frustrating and sad moment for Afghans," said Irfan Yar, who is the founder and managing director of the Afghanistan Security Institute.

Yar was one of many who said they have strong ties to the country and are feeling a sense of hopelessness and desperation watching the crisis unfold from a distance. 

Protesters held signs and chanted for peace in Afghanistan as they gathered in front of the peacekeeping monument in Ottawa on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Celeste Decaire/CBC)

He said it's been difficult to get in touch with people from home and hopes for a resolution and a way forward. 

"The only solution I see is to increase negotiations, diplomacy and international cooperation to all those actors involved," he said.

The crisis in Afghanistan is worsening as the Taliban continues to advance across the country. In a few days they have seized control of about 22 of the country's 34 provinces and are edging closer to the country's capital, Kabul.

The militant group recently captured Herat, Kandahar, and Mazar-e-Sharif, the country's second, third, and fourth-largest cities. 

Khisraw Naimi has been living in Canada for seven years and says his plans of moving back home are not looking good. He says his parents have encouraged him to remain in Canada as the situation in Afghanistan worsens. (Celeste Decaire/CBC)

The situation is deeply personal and difficult for Afghans living away from their home country. Khisraw Naimi came to Canada to study seven years ago, and said his plans to move back have been derailed. 

"I finished my studies in Quebec City, and because the situation was getting worse and worse my parents didn't want me to return. They told me to stay here," he said.

Naimi said the country has been at war for the past several generations and that hope for a solution is fading. 

"It's very hard. I'm very concerned and also hopeless. To the people of the world, they should not leave us alone in this situation."

The federal government has expanded its Afghan resettlement program and is set to bring 20,000 refugees to Canada, including women leaders, human rights workers, LGBTQ individuals, and reporters.

They are expected to arrive through family-class sponsorship and government-assisted refugee programs, as well as private sponsorship.