His mom is stuck in Kabul. He wants Canada to do more: ‘I’m out of options’
Seyar Karimi is exhausted.
For days, the 26-year-old Toronto resident has been trying to connect with government officials, both in Canada and around the world, to try and get his mother out of Afghanistan.
“I’m exhausted from the amount of messaging I’m putting out there, especially the government emails that I’m sending out, and only getting auto-responses,” he told Global News on Monday.
“That’s the frustrating part, just no response from somebody who can actually help me just yet.”
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In June, his mother, Gulmakai Karimi, left Canada for Kabul to spend time with her family. Since she’s been there, the Taliban have been taking back control of the country, and effectively did so after it seized the capital on Aug. 15.
“I honestly did advise against it but she made a good point that she hasn’t seen her family in a long time and she really wanted to, so I ended up supporting her on that trip financially and emotionally,” he said.
“And I’m on the other end of this now, supporting her and getting her back.”
As part of his efforts, Karimi made a desperate plea for help on LinkedIn on Friday, which has since gone viral. In it, he writes that his mother, who is a Canadian citizen, has no idea of how she is getting home.
“On top of that, she has about seven family members who want to escape with her,” he wrote. “I’ve never dealt with anything like this before and truly don’t know what else to do besides emailing a few folks. I’m out of options.”
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Chaos and choppy communication
The Taliban, an Islamist militant group that reigned over the country with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, has essentially regained control of Afghanistan, plunging many citizens into uncertainty and fear.
The return to power followed a decision by the United States to pull its troops out of the country. Remaining military members are due to leave the area on Aug. 31 but may stay longer, President Joe Biden said Sunday.
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As the Taliban descended on Kabul and the country’s president fled, many living in Afghanistan went into “a complete state of panic,” according to one immigration lawyer fielding calls and emails from worried relatives.
Thousands of Afghans have been trying to flee the country in fear the group will reinstate strict Islamic law they had when they last ruled. Back then, adulterers were stoned and women were banned from attending school or working outside the home.
But returning to Canada or simply getting on an evacuation flight is proving difficult — and in some cases, dangerous — for Afghans. Some have criticized the lack of communication on the ground between Canadian officials and those seeking rescuing.
“There’s been no special hotline. There’s been no special email that you can send requests to expedite these kinds of files,” lawyer Chantal Desloges previously told Global News about the refugee efforts.
On Sunday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Canadian personnel “have the full operational discretion to take whatever actions are necessary to get as many people into the airport and onto those flights as quickly as possible.”
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Western nations, including Canada, have soldiers posted at or near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in order to secure extradition out of the country.
Canadian evacuation flights resumed on Aug. 19, and since then four flights have departed. The latest left Sunday with 436 people aboard: Canadians, allied foreign nationals and Afghans eligible for special immigration measures.
Canada has expanded its humanitarian efforts to help resettle thousands of Afghan refugees. About 20,000 Afghans who have already left the country will be resettled by Canada’s newly expanded program.
Through his LinkedIn post, Karimi said he has gotten lots of messages from people wanting to help but has yet to reach a government official.
Karimi says he’s reached out to Global Affairs Canada through its 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa throughout last week, but only got auto-responses. When asked about whether it had received Karimi’s requests, Global Affairs Canada provided no further clarity, citing “privacy reasons.” They reiterated that work continues to “evacuate as many Canadians and vulnerable Afghans from Afghanistan as possible.”
“I’m really hoping to rely on the government to be more helpful here,” Karimi said.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated to reporters on Monday that he’s focused on getting as many people out of Afghanistan as possible.
“Canada has been engaged in Afghanistan for many, many years … and the entire focus of the Canadian government right now in Afghanistan is on getting people out to safety as quickly as possible, as many as possible,” he said.
“We’re continuing to work with our allies and focus on that.”
‘Afghanistan is top of mind’
In the meantime, Karimi speaks with his mom on the phone every morning. He says he’s comforted by the fact that when they talk, he can hear in the background that she is surrounded by family.
“That’s actually probably the best part of all this is; I feel like she’s in a community,” he said.
“That reminds me that she’s not by herself in a hotel room, kind of abandoned. She’s literally with a mini-village, which is her family.”
Though his mother has told him to stay calm, Karimi struggles to keep his worries at bay. He says he wants to see more concrete action from the government — starting with a response from an actual Canadian official to his emails about his mother.
“I get it, your inboxes are full … there are a million problems going on, but this is kind of front and centre for the whole planet,” he said.
“Right now, Afghanistan is top of mind and my mom is at the very top of mind for me. So please get back to me as soon as possible.”
— with files from Amanda Connolly, Rachel Gilmore and Reuters
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