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Saturday, September 18, 2021

‘Canada left them behind’: Afghan interpreters and their families plead to be evacuated from Afghanistan

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TORONTO — The Afghan interpreters who aided the Canadian military are desperately trying to leave the country as the Taliban swept through Afghanistan’s capital on Sunday.

“I am hiding in my home with my family,” Obair told CTV News’ Melanie Nagy in a phone interview. “I need help… please help.”

Obair, an Afghan local who said he served over a year as an interpreter with the Canadian Armed Forces, fears for his life and that of his family now that the Taliban has arrived in Kabul.

“It is very risky… very dangerous for us,” Obair said. “I swear [to] you that they will kill my family members or they will kill me.”

“I need […] emergency help from Canada,” he added.

Obair says that he’s filled out the necessary forms and completed the required tests, but still hasn’t heard about a flight to Canada.


There are an estimated 1,000 interpreters still living in Kabul. Many on Sunday rushed to the airport, the only way out of the capital, in a desperate bid to escape.

Retired Cpl. Robin Rickards who’s familiar with the political situation in the region says there were “people standing outside the inner gate to Karzai International Airport with no clear plan on what to do.”

The fate of those Afghan interpreters is more complicated now that Canada has closed its embassy in Kabul.

When asked Sunday how exactly he’ll evacuate Canadian allies still in the capital, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was short on details.

“We are heartbroken at the situation the Afghan people find themselves in today,” Trudeau said outside of Rideau Hall in Ottawa, moments before formally launching a federal election campaign.

“This is especially so given the sacrifices of Canadians who believed and continue to believe in the future of Afghanistan. We will continue to work with allies and the international community to ensure that those efforts were not in vain.”

“We will continue to work to get as many Afghan interpreters and their families out as quickly as possible as long as the security situation holds,” he added.

Even with this commitment, there are still those who are desperate for answers. Sayed Shah is one of them.

Shah is an Afghan interpreter who now lives in Toronto, but his younger brothers – one of which he says worked for Canada – are still in Kabul.

“I am telling them that I have no idea what to do,” Shah explained. “What are they going to do?”

On Friday, the federal government announced that it would be accepting up to 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, but no timeline was given.

“We were given hope that they were coming so we told them to stay in Kabul,” Shah explained. “And now Canada left them behind.”

With files from The Canadian Press.

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