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Friday, September 24, 2021

In Afghanistan, one family reaches safety, while another remains stranded

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TORONTO — Across razor wire, through sewage water, and into the arms of Canadian soldiers — that was the gateway to safety for former Afghan interpreter Sangeen Abdul Mateen’s family.

He calls them “heroes,” the soldiers who held out their hand, trying to lift people up from the sewage water.

“This is exactly what happened to my family, and all of them made it through that way,” says Mateen, who now lives in Canada.

His brother, also an interpreter, was among those wading in the dirty water, getting rescued and pulled into the airport perimeter. He had been trapped in Kabul with his wife and five children. Over the weekend, the family made the treacherous journey toward an airport gate in an attempt to escape the Taliban, but had to turn back. Five-year-old Omar was rushed to the hospital suffering from dehydration along with his newborn sister.

The family made a desperate attempt again on Monday and this time, they made it through onto an airplane.

“I just can’t wait to see everybody arrive to Canada,” Mateen told CTV News.

It is still mayhem at the Kabul international airport, with Afghans still trying to make their way into the perimeter to what they hope will be safety. Canada’s special forces have been operating outside the airport in order to get people out of Afghanistan, according to Canadian officials.

Senior officials also confirmed that four evacuation flights have left Kabul over the past four days since foreign allied forces regained control of operations at the airport. The largest plane carried 436 people. A dozen flights carrying more than 1,100 people have left Afghanistan this month, according to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino on Sunday, but thousands more with Canadian connections are still far from safety.

In Oshawa, Ont., Baz Ali is worried about his 72-year-old father, a Canadian citizen who escaped the Taliban once before, decades earlier. He returned to his homeland to teach, but is now trapped in a hotel, with limited options. There have been emails saying there is room for him on a flight, but he is unable to make the journey to the airport gates, says Ali.

“I wish I could transport myself over there to help him get to the airport, but he alone can’t do that, not in his condition.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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