'Shocked to the core': B.C.-based advocates respond to Kabul bombings with urgent calls for action
As Friba Rezayee watched the news unfold of twin bombings near Kabul’s airport on Thursday, she felt herself go numb.
“It’s devastating, we can’t take this anymore,” Rezayee, who came to Canada as a refugee in 2011, told CTV News in Vancouver.
“It’s so shocking,” she said. “I’m shocked to the core that honestly I’m not feeling anything anymore.”
Rezayee, who is one of Afghanistan’s first female Olympic athletes, and is now executive director of a non-profit that focuses on providing Afghan women and girls with educational opportunities, including in sports, said she received panicked messages from those who were near the carnage.
Mursal Nowrouzi, who left Afghanistan with her family at the age of five, and lived in Pakistan for 10 years as a refugee before immigrating to Canada, called the bombings simply traumatic.
“I feel like I’m reliving the nightmare that I escaped 20 years ago,” Nowrouzi, with the Afghan Canadian Association said.
“It’s being played out right in front of our faces and we feel hopeless and helpless,” she said, adding that she has a grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins who are essentially trapped in Kabul.
Nowrouzi is now co-organizing a protest for this coming Saturday at 2 p.m. outside the Vancouver Art Gallery to shine a light on a humanitarian crisis she said is only getting worse each day.
“As much as we’re screaming for attention,” she said, “I feel like things have been very slow, and I know (Canada has) the capacity to do more.”
The bombings came just hours after Canada announced its formal evacuation efforts in Afghanistan had come to a close.
It’s not clear how or when Ottawa plans to evacuate those who remain.
Rezayee said she also remains deeply concerned about her family in the Afghan capital who have submitted paperwork with the Canadian government and are waiting to hear something in response.
“I do have seven family members who are in hiding right now,” Rezayee said.
“They are changing their locations every other day,” she explained. “They are changing their phone numbers. They are also changing their photos on social media not to attract any attention.”
And while this advocate for women and children said Canada did a “good” job bringing nearly 4,000 people to safety, she echoed Nowrouzi’s comments that Ottawa could have done more, sooner.
“Canada has the wealth, capacity, and the ability to take more refugees,” Rezayee said, adding that the country and others need to plan now for a process that she called “peaceful” and “proper” to avoid a refugee crisis like that seen after Syria descended into civil war.
Ottawa has pledged to settle some 20,000 Afghan refugees, but critics have pointed out that includes applications that were already pending.
“All these people who are leaving Afghanistan, they just want to be alive, they just want to survive,” Rezayee said. “That’s not a lot to ask.”