The plight of Afghan women struggling to escape after the Taliban took over their country was the focus of a fundraising breakfast on International Women’s Day.
The event was organized by the Manitoba Afghanistan Task Force, which is working to sponsor three families to come to the province.
Nazefa Ismail, who came to Canada years ago with her young family, spoke of two of the families who managed to flee to Pakistan but are still in danger due to the Taliban presence in the region.
“Their current situation is dire as they live in very cramped, unheated accommodation and barely have enough food to live on,” she said.
The mothers of both families are sisters, Ismail said, and the families have been persecuted for being Sayyid and Shia Muslims.
Their situation in Pakistan is precarious because they have no identity papers.
Ariana Yaftali, a member of the task force, remembered what it was like when she was a child refugee from Afghanistan.
“The fear, not knowing what’s going to happen, the persecution of my family, the disappearance of my father, the continuous harassment of my mother,” she said. “These things are certainly common stories among refugees.”
She said many of the gains made by women in recent years have been reversed after months of Taliban rule.
“Judges, teachers, doctors, nurses, students playing sports and music… Unfortunately, all of this progress disappeared when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.”
Kobra Aritanta spoke of one of his relatives who liked to play music, which is forbidden by the Taliban. He hid his instruments in the house of Arainta’s brother.
“After the Taliban found them, they destroyed them and burned them and beat my brother,” she said.
She said women can’t go to work, people can’t afford food and in some cases they have resorted to selling their children or their body parts, said Ariana.
“It’s not living, it’s just not dying,” she said.
The group had a cookbook with Afghan recipes on sale to raise money for the families.
The event was organized in conjunction with many members of the provincial and federal Liberal parties, including Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and former MP Anita Neville.