Halifax man with Afghan spouse pleads for help after Taliban takeover

·3 min read
Halifax man with Afghan spouse pleads for help after Taliban takeover
CBC News has agreed not to publish the identity of Sultani's wife for her protection. (Submitted by Khalil Sultani - image credit)
CBC News has agreed not to publish the identity of Sultani's wife for her protection. (Submitted by Khalil Sultani - image credit)

As Khalil Sultani speaks to his wife in Afghanistan for the first time since the Taliban took over Kabul on Sunday, he appears both surprised and relieved.

But after only about a minute, the phone call is cut off. It's an all too familiar situation for many Canadians with family in Afghanistan.

"Maybe I sleep three or four hours [a day], because I'm feeling very bad," said Sultani just after that call in the lobby of CBC Nova Scotia.

The 52-year-old taxi driver from Halifax said he fears for his wife's life and is desperate to see more effort from the Canadian government to bring her to safety.

For the protection of Sultani's wife, CBC News has agreed not to publish her name or show her face.

Submitted by Khalil Sultani
Submitted by Khalil Sultani

The Taliban has seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, sweeping into Kabul on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Since then, the Taliban has promised a peaceful transition of power, but many people fear a return to the way things were under their previous rule, recalling severe restrictions on women, as well as stonings, amputations and public executions.

Sultani grew up in Afghanistan. His father was killed by the Soviets in 1979 and Sultani fled to India, where he graduated with a degree in political science. He immigrated to Canada in 2001, and has worked driving a taxi ever since.

He first started trying to bring his wife to Canada after they were married in 2016.

They met through his mother, who had called him one day to say she'd arranged a possible marriage. He wanted to know more about her, and so they started speaking on the phone.

He learned she was educated and worked in health care. They got along. Later that year, they were married in Afghanistan.

Since then, Sultani has spent over $5,750 dollars submitting his wife's application to immigrate to Canada.

But all he and his lawyer have heard from the government over the last two years is that the application is still being processed.

'I want to save my wife's life'

The chaos in Afghanistan has deeply affected Sultani's wife. The woman in her late 20s has not been able to work at the hospital and is afraid to even leave her home.

"Of course I'm afraid because she's working within the hospital. And of course many times she was opposed of the Taliban. She is against the Taliban. If some of the Taliban go, they will kill her," he said, urging Ottawa to expedite his application.

"I need help. I want to save my wife's life."

Last week, the federal government announced it intends to take in as many as 20,000 additional refugees from the war-torn country.

On Friday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada will accelerate processing the families of interpreters and others who supported its mission in Afghanistan to quickly evacuate as many approved people as possible.

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