In less than two years, Gulalai Mohammadi has gone from being Afghanistan's youngest MP to a life in hiding under the Taliban — and a constant fear of becoming the next prominent Afghan woman to be assassinated.
'"Even at night, I cannot sleep very well, because I am thinking that someone will come and someone will kill me as well," she said in an interview with CBC's The House.
Last Sunday, a woman Mohammadi thought of as "a sister" — 29-year-old former Afghan MP Mursal Nabizada — was shot dead along with her bodyguard in Kabul. Police have said they are investigating the killings.
"She didn't do anything wrong," said Mohammadi, who last saw her friend just three weeks before her death. Mohammadi said she believes her fellow ex-parliamentarian was a target in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan because she was a high-profile woman.
Both women were part of a group of nine ex-lawmakers who were hoping to come to Canada. Politicians in this country have been advocating to bring the women here since the fall.
Since Nabizada's death, the push to get the remaining eight women out has taken on "an incredible sense of urgency" said Corey Levine, a human rights advocate who has been working with Canadian politicians to try to bring the former parliamentarians here.
The women were encouraged to enter public life by the international community, including Canada, said Levine.
"Now they are living in fear. And it's time that the international community did something," she said.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told CBC's Power & Politics on Thursday that the cases of these female lawmakers are among those the government is working on to determine if it can provide refuge.
"But there's a fundamental issue that people need to understand about how the process of bringing refugees to Canada works. It's not me sitting in my office pointing and choosing," he said.
Fraser said the government works with international agencies, including the United Nations, to determine the vulnerability of individual refugee applicants.
"Having me bypass the process by selecting particular individuals is not how the process works in this initiative or other refugee resettlement initiatives," he added.
WATCH | Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on the murder of a former Afghan MP:
The federal government has pledged to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says that 27,345 Afghans have arrived here under various programs since August 2021.
Fraser's comments about the process amount to an "excuse," said Conservative MP Alex Ruff, part of the all-party group of MPs trying to bring the women to Canada.
"I take issue with his unwillingness to resolve this issue personally, using his authority under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. He has the ability to give an exemption," said Ruff, who served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
The women are "arguably most at risk because they represent everything the Taliban regime detests," he added.
'Over there I will be free'
Mohammadi said she's been living a constricted life since the recent decision by the Taliban to bar women from universities. She said she was forced to end her studies and now rarely leaves the house. When she does, she said, she wears a burka.
The 28 year-old dreams of returning to her studies and advocacy work in Canada.
"Because if I raise my voice here in Afghanistan, me and my family both, they are in danger. I cannot do anything special. But over there I will be free and I will be able to do something for women's rights," she said.
When asked if she had a message for the Canadian government, Mohammadi focused on the needs of all women in Afghanistan.
"They are erased from everything, including their basic rights," she said. "I kindly request the Canadian government and people to stand beside the women of Afghanistan at this important time."