As Ariana Yaftali watches the images coming out of Afghanistan of the Taliban quickly taking over the country and Afghans desperately trying to flee, she can’t help but feel heartbroken for her home country, and she knows the work she does to help Afghan women settle in Canada will be that much more important moving forward.
“As a community we are shocked, we are devastated, and we are heartbroken,” Yaftali said.
Yaftali, who is from Afghanistan, and who came to Winnipeg in 2001, is one of the founders of the Afghan-Canadian Women's Organizations, a not-for-profit that supports Afghan women and their families to settle in Canada.
She said that for many years she and others with the organization have worked closely with Afghan women to make them comfortable in their new homes after leaving Afghanistan.
“We offer settlement support as well as navigation, and we provide education about Canadian laws and the Canadian political and social system,” Yaftali said. “We are here to help build women’s capacity to become productive members of Canadian society.”
And as the Taliban have quickly taken control of Afghanistan over the last few days, Yaftali is now worried about what that takeover will mean for the women and girls living in the country who will now likely live under Taliban rule.
“They don’t believe in education for young girls and women, and they do not allow for women to participate in political, social, and economic areas in Afghanistan, so it is a very, very scary time for these women and girls,” she said.
“I can’t help but feel heartbroken, and I can’t imagine the fear that so many women and girls are now feeling.”
What has shocked Yaftali the most about the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is the speed in which it all happened.
“We were not surprised that they took over when the U.S. government and international community withdrew, we knew definitely these people would be back and it was just a matter of time, but we are completely shocked by how fast they took control.”
Yaftali added she is very disappointed with the U.S. government and with the international community for what she said has been the “abandoning” of the Afghan people.
“Now we feel very abandoned and we feel betrayed, because they just allowed the country back into the hands of the terrorists,” she said. “I don’t think a lot about politicians and leaders, but I care deeply about those poor people, and those women and children who are suffering.”
In her role with the Afghan-Canadian Women's Organization, Yaftali said she is now focused on helping as many Afghan refugees as possible come to Canada, but she said she wants more answers and more information from the federal government about their recent announcement that they plan to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans who are now threatened by the Taliban, and forced to flee Afghanistan.
“It’s confusing and now on top of it we have the election called, but we really need to know the details of this 20,000 plan, and how we can help and work with the government,” Yaftali said.
“We are ready to help these people, and we are ready to work with and collaborate with this government.”
And as the situation continues to devolve in Afghanistan, Yaftali said she now worries she and others will only continue to see disturbing images coming out of the country in the coming days, months, and years.
“Right now it is chaos, just pure chaos, with people even trying to grab onto the sides of airplanes you can see how desperate the situation really is, and how desperately people are trying to get out,” Yaftali said.
“And it’s been like this for many years, it’s just a place now where all you see is destruction and misery. It’s all so very, very sad.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun