Afghan performers: “For me, you can't leave a brother behind”

Afghan Interpreters: “For me, you can't leave a brother behind”

Tyson Martin, left, and Abdul Hakim Azizi , center, met during a Canadian Armed Forces mission in Afghanistan.

A year after Kabul fell to the Taliban, thousands of Afghans who worked directly or indirectly with the Canadian government during the military mission there are still trying to get help to flee the country.

Voices are being raised for the government to do more and quickly to help these Afghans who put their lives in danger to help the Canadian military .

Tyson Martin is one of those who are getting impatient. The former soldier was sent to Afghanistan in 2010.

Hakim Azizi joined his unit as an interpreter to participate in Canadian military patrols. Last summer, when tensions escalated, Tyson Martin knew the performer would become a target for the Taliban. He moved heaven and earth to ensure he could get his visa and flee Kabul.

Abdul Hakim Azizi served as an interpreter for the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

Hakim was hiding at his uncle's house, waiting for an opportunity to go to the airport. But things were changing so fast on the ground that eventually I said to him, “Go to the airport, knock on the door and hope it works out,” says the former commander.

After three attempts, the interpreter and his wife were finally able to board the last Canadian flight to leave Kabul. But not everyone was so lucky. There is another interpreter who we had with us for a very short time. We are in contact with him, but he has been in a refugee camp in Islamabad with his five children for over a year now, Tyson Martin points out.

“I can't understand how anyone can think like that. To me, you can't leave a brother behind.

— Former Canadian Armed Forces member Tyson Martin

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Canada had pledged to take in 40,000 Afghans, but estimates it could take another two years. So far, 17,375 of them have arrived, including 10,045 under a humanitarian program and just over 7,300 under a program reserved for Afghans who have helped Canada.

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Chris Alexander was Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, then Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Afghanistan responsible for political affairs, relations with the Afghan government, the international community and the military. (Archives)

Former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander says Canada has a duty to do more. We were not rigorous in our regional policy to prevent the return of the Taliban. All countries that participated in this mission should assume their share of responsibility, he said.

“We should aim, in Canada, to receive at least 100,000 Afghans.

— Chris Alexander, former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan

The Conservative opposition deplores the government's insistence on imposing a limit on the number of Afghans that Canada can receive. It's a number that was thrown in the air to play politics, but we're talking about human beings, families, people who helped us in Afghanistan, denounces Pierre Paul-Hus , Conservative MP for Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles.

Canadian Minister of 'Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser defends himself, but will go no further. We remain firm in our commitment to resettle at least 40,000 Afghan nationals in Canada as quickly and safely as possible. The main obstacle, he says, remains the lack of safe and reliable routes out of the country.

Meanwhile, Tyson and Hakim meet regularly in the small apartment that the interpreter was able to rent in downtown Ottawa, they remember fond memories of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

Faced with the massive exodus caused by the return of the Taliban, Canada had promised to welcome 40,000 Afghan refugees, but it only half of that number have arrived in Canada over the past year. Among them are many interpreters who have rendered proud service to the Canadian Forces and who are now forced to stay in the shadows to avoid reprisals from the Taliban. Report by Valérie Gamache.

A year after fleeing his country, Hakim Azizi dreams of one day being able to reunite his three brothers and six sisters in Canada. In the meantime, he has found a new family.

For me and for my parents, he is part of the family. We celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas together. I adopted him and my family too. It's just like that, summarizes Tyson Martin.

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