Canadian MPs say Ottawa must help women who were Afghan lawmakers escape Taliban

OTTAWA — After the murder of a former Afghan member of Parliament on the weekend, an all-party group of MPs is calling on the Canadian government to help bring others to safety.

The group said in a joint statement Monday that eight other women who were members of the legislature before the Taliban took over remain in Afghanistan and need Canada's help.

A former legislator, Mursal Nabizada, and her bodyguard were shot dead by unknown attackers, police in Kabul said Sunday.

She was among the few female parliamentarians who stayed in the capital city after the Taliban seized power in August 2021.

"We condemn the murder of Mursal Nabizada, a former Afghan parliamentarian, who bravely fought for the rights of women and girls," the offices of Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a joint statement Monday.

"The perpetrators of this horrific crime must be brought to justice."

The ministers' statement said Nabizada "will continue to be an inspiration" but stopped short of offering specific help for her compatriots.

Still, the statement said that the government is committed to bringing in 40,000 Afghan refugees by the end of 2023, and women who were judges, human rights defenders, journalists, community organizers and MPs in Afghanistan are among the nearly 30,000 who have already been resettled to Canada.

"Canada will continue to advocate for a co-ordinated effort by the international community to support Afghan women and Afghan human rights defenders and to pressure the Taliban to uphold human rights," the ministers' offices said.

"We’ll continue to do everything we can to welcome Afghans safely and quickly. This includes working with members of Parliament from all parties to advance our nation’s efforts, and specifically, bring more women leaders to Canada."

The six Canadian MPs who are advocating for more action said in their own statement that they have worked on the issue together since last October and they believe that Canada has a moral responsibility to help.

They said the situation in Afghanistan is more dangerous by the day and the Taliban are controlling women with a "brutal gender apartheid system."

"For the sake of the lives of these eight women, we urge the Canadian government to act on this matter urgently and take immediate action to assist in getting these women to safety," the statement said.

The group includes Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, the Green Party's Elizabeth May, the NDP's Heather McPherson, the Conservatives' Alex Ruff and the Liberals' Marcus Powlowski and Leah Taylor Roy.

Their statement added that no woman is safe in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

"But this is particularly so for these brave women MPs who led the way in opening up public and civic space for women and girls under the previous Afghan government."

Nabizada was elected in 2019 to represent Kabul and stayed in office until the Taliban takeover.

She was a member of the parliamentary defence commission and worked at a private non-governmental group, the Institute for Human Resources Development and Research.

Local police chief Molvi Hamidullah Khalid said on the weekend that investigations into her death are underway. He did not answer questions about possible motives.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press.

The Canadian Press