Taliban forces have tightened their grip on Afghanistan, and the absence of Western forces is drawing major fear from the Afghan community in Alberta.
Living under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for several years was an experience Fardeen Habibzai will never forget.
“I remember when I was 11 years old and [the Taliban came] to Kabul. I remember that day; everyone was so happy. They came in as they promised the world for the citizens [but] what they saw at the end of day was a brutal regime,” Fardeen Habibzai said.
Habibzai said he constantly feared for this life, saying executions and beatings were common.
“My parents realized that this is not the living we want, so that’s why we moved to Pakistan, then we came to Canada,” Habibzai said
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Habibzai has lived in Edmonton for 20 years. With family still in Afghanistan, he said the departure of western military troops has left his relatives hopeless and fearing for their lives.
“To see it all go back to zero and back in the hands of the Taliban, it is not only incomprehensible, it is heartbreaking,” president of the Edmonton Afghan Charitable Society Edris Azizi said.
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“The West may think this is just an Afghan problem but it’s not an Afghan problem. It’s an international crisis right now. Sooner or later the West — Canada, the United States or Europe — will feel it,” Habibzai said.
“It turned into a terrorist haven before and it is going to turn into it again.”
While the world watches a Taliban takeover, Canadian soldiers who fought on the front lines are also feeling hopeless, watching what they helped build over many years rapidly fall apart.
“People are pissed — they are angry, there’s no doubt about it. There’s people who sit there and say, ‘Why did we go over there if it’s going to end up like this?’” Canadian Armed Forces veteran Quentin Innis said.
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Veteran Tom Bradley said to see Afghanistan, which once had such potential for success, go back to its old ways is devastating.
“On the one hand, you’re happy that children that were educated in a system we helped to nurture have done well,” Bradley said.
“Unfortunately, you get to see what their life is like right now and it’s absolutely terrible.”
Innis said he and other veterans have taken up the cause, hoping to help translators who supported Canadian soldiers escape the violence.
But being so far away, their capabilities are limited.
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