Canadian woman stuck in Afghanistan worries she will die as military ends operation

·4 min read

A Canadian woman stuck in Afghanistan with her parents says she's terrified she will die before she is able to return to her Ontario home and is blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Zak, who asked her full name not be revealed due to safety concerns, said Thursday the Canadian military appeared disorganized during evacuations from the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital.

The 50-year-old cried and said she is angry at Trudeau for turning his back on Canadian citizens in that country.

"How can he sleep at night (if) he knows that people have family left behind?" she told The Canadian Press by phone.

"How can (the) Canadian government (say), 'We are the best country in the world,' (and turn) its back on its citizens? Could you ask him this question? Can someone ask him?"

Zak said she left her three grown children at home in Brampton, Ont., and went to Afghanistan in August to find safety for her parents as the Talibanwas taking over the country.

She twice tried to leave before the American-led military mission's Aug. 31 deadline, she said, but was beaten by Taliban members and pushed away from the gates of the airport, where she had been told to meet Canadian officials to get a flight home.

On Thursday, when the last of Canada's troops left the country, she tried again to get on a plane but was stopped by the Taliban, Zak said.

The U.S. military co-ordinated with its citizens on safer locations to meet them, she said.

"The U.S. government is calling its citizens and they gave them a space to go. They go there and they pick them up from that spot, or they send them to the hotels. They pick them up from the hotels.

"There's many ways that the Canadian government can save its citizens, but they are not."'

Zak said she got a call at 3:40 a.m. from the Canadian government.

"They are like, 'Be at the gate by 6 a.m. and take food and water with you,'" Zak said. "When it's dark, it's not safe. But I did go there earlier."

Zak said she was also told to wear red so the military could find her at the gate, where she would be screened for admission.

Taliban members were shooting guns and beating people near the gate, she said. She ran into other Canadian citizens and held onto her Canadian passport as she fell, injuring her head and knees.

There were U.S. soldiers, but the Canadian military was nowhere in sight, said Zak, who added that she waited for awhile and then left.

A few hours later, a bomb exploded where she had been waiting, she said. The blast killed 12 U.S. service members and at least 60 Afghan civilians.

"I saw so many kids there. I saw so many people and they're all dead now," Zak said through tears.

"I feel sorry for my people. These are good people with good heart. Every day now, you're just waiting death. It's a slow death for us."

Trudeau was asked about the bombing during the federal election campaign Thursday and said it was a "very difficult day." He added that Ottawa's is committed to resettling more than 20,000 Afghans in Canada. Canada boarded about 3,700 Canadian nationals and Afghan refugees onto evacuation flights in recent weeks.

Zak's youngest daughter, Marjan, 25, said Trudeau should be ashamed.

"Trudeau was more interested in his election campaign and he's saying he's balancing both. But he's obviously not and you can tell," she said.

"They were like ... 'Get to the airport.' But how are you supposed to get to the airport when people are getting shot left, right and centre? There's no way to get in."

"It might take a miracle for my mom to come home," said another daughter, Laila.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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