September 28, 2021

‘My family is heartbroken:’ Afghan-Canadians in Toronto area on edge during deadly conflict

Maiha Sarwary says he’s still reeling from the shock of losing two of his cousins in what he said was a government airstrike in his home province of Badakshan in Afghanistan in mid-July.

“They were all younger members,” said Sarwary, who told Global News he believes the government was planning the strike for Taliban members who were in the area but ended up destroying an entire market in his home village.

“All young guys, like me, they were all killed in the bazaar when the airstrike happened.

Sarwary went on to show pictures of the two young men.

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“There were 12 people who got killed, including two of my cousins,” he said.

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“One of them was an engineer and one of them was a doctor who had three kids left behind … He was selling medicine he had a shop where it happened.”

Sarwary, who now lives in Scarborough, said he’s been on edge since the Taliban began sweeping across many regions of Afghanistan this summer — toppling provincial capitals, including Kandahar.

Although he’s already lost two cousins, he and his family here in Canada said they are not sure if other Sarwary family members back home are still alive.

“My family is heartbroken. They don’t know what to do, what action to take from here,’ he said.

That feeling has been echoed by many in the large Afghan-Canadian community in Ontario. The 2016 census tallied nearly 85,000 Afghans who live in the province.

Baktash Nasseri, an Afghan-Canadian who owns a traditional Afghan restaurant called Kabob Boys in Scarborough, told Global News many in the Greater Toronto Area are supporting one another as they wait to hear the latest news out of Afghanistan.

“They’re living hour by hour. They don’t know what’s going to happen next hour, what’s going to happen at the end of the day,” said Nasseri.

“It’s very sad, it’s nerve-breaking to see.”

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He went on to add that his restaurant has already donated to charities providing humanitarian aid to the affected regions.

“All I can say is I’ve been through that and I know how hard to even go through the day without knowing if you’re going to have food today, if you are safe today to walk on the streets or not,” said Nasseri.

The Canadian military has recently stepped in to help evacuate staff at the embassy in Kabul while the Canadian government has made a promise to help resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees who may be the most vulnerable to Taliban attack.

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But some leaders of the Afghan-Canadian community said that other countries need to step up and help Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire.

“The national community is turning the blind eye on us and not responding to the situation,” said Abdul Aziz Shahsamand of the Afghan-Canadian Islamic Community.

“At least take a look, towns are falling.”

Shahsamand also said he believes Canada should send troops into the country to help civilians on the ground.

“Canada and the political leadership need to do more to not only the people who are stuck in the [embassy] compound who used to work with the foreign troops, but also the ordinary people on the ground,” he said.

“There is a shortage of food, shortage of fuel, shortage of water.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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