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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Afghan refugee grateful family fled to Canada days before Taliban took Kabul

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TORONTO — Mohammad Ehsan Saadat is extremely grateful to be in Canada after his family fled Afghanistan six days before the Taliban took over capital city of Kabul.

Saadat said his work with Western Allied Forces as a researcher on women and girls’ rights put him and his family in danger.

“It was too difficult for me to stay there,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.

So far, more than 1,100 endangered Afghans have reached Canada. Immigration officials are processing about 3,000 of the 6,000 claims from endangered Afghans seeking to flee, officials previously told The Canadian Press.

Saadat had been monitoring the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan for months, and in July, he made the difficult choice to leave.

He filled out immigration applications for the U.S., some European countries and Canada. To his shock, he received travel documents from Canada a week after he sent his papers to the Canadian Embassy in Kabul.

His family took what they could and flew out of the city on Aug. 8. The city fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15.

Saadat and his loved ones arrived in Toronto under Canada’s Special Immigration Measures for Afghans program, which recently expanded its mandate to bring more Afghan citizens into the country.

But he now mourns other families that aren’t able to start anew in Canada. Nine of his own siblings are still in Kabul.

TALIBAN SAYS ONE THING, BUT DOES ANOTHER: SAADAT

In 1996, Saadat went to school in Afghanistan when it was under Taliban rule and vividly recalls how women were barred from attending classes.

“I remember all their laws, including dressing, mosque attendance, the right to freedom of expression, women’s rights, the right to demonstrate and litigate and advocate,” he wrote in a journal entry.

Saadat told CTV’s Your Morning he fully expects that if his family has stayed, his daughters would have face the same fate under the Taliban.

“If my daughters stayed there in 2021, I’m sure they would be uneducated and [wouldn’t] go to school under their government,” he said, adding that, like many others, he strongly doubts Taliban leadership’s claims that they won’t greatly restrict women like decades earlier.

“They say one thing in their words, and then do another thing.”

Although Saadat is heartened by the wave of people in Afghanistan fighting for change against the Taliban and women protesting for equal access, he is worried that protests could lead to Taliban retaliation.

The mandatory hotel quarantine for Saadat’s family ends in the coming days and Saadat said he is looking forward to taking his children to the park. In the long-term, he isn’t ruling out resuming his own studies and gaining a master’s degree in a program such as conflict resolution.

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