A 10-year-old Afghan girl preparing to come to Canada with her family was instead shot and killed by the Taliban last week, a death critics say is partly to blame for Ottawa’s sluggish efforts to relocate Afghans. who worked with the Canadian military.
The Nazi father had worked for the Canadian Armed Forces in Kandahar, said Kynan Walper, chief operating officer of Aman Lara, a veterans’ group that voluntarily helps Afghans who served in the military to escape the country.
Walper accused an inadequate evacuation effort by the Canadian government and delays in immigration treatment for the girl’s killing.
“I can not be clear enough – this young girl has died due to delays in getting people over here,” Walper said. He says Nazifa learned English and was excited about moving to Canada.
The family received visa approvals under the federal government’s special immigration program for Afghans working with Canada in mid-October, according to Walper.
But they were stuck in Afghanistan with a little help from Ottawa, he said, as they struggled to get Afghan passports so they could travel to a third country, in this case Pakistan, and then on to Canada.
The Nazi father, Bashir, Walper said, is devastated.
Nazi’s death and its circumstances were first reported by Global News. The family’s surname is withheld for security reasons.
The family was on their way back from a wedding on the night of December 10 in Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban, when the shooting took place.
The group thought they had been approved to pass through a checkpoint – but seconds later, Taliban fighters opened fire on their vehicle.
An adult woman related to the girl was also killed and “several” others were injured, Walper said.
He said the family fears it may have been attacked because of Bashir’s work with the Canadian military – but it is unclear why the shooting began exactly.
The Taliban granted a general amnesty to those working with foreign forces. But human rights organizations and Afghan sources have accused Taliban fighters of carrying out targeted retaliatory killings in the months following the retake of Afghanistan.
Alex Cohen, press secretary to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, called Nazi’s death “tragic and heartbreaking” and wrote that Canada condemned “this senseless act of violence by the Taliban”.
Cohen said thousands of Afghans who have been allowed to come to Canada remain stuck due to “Taliban intervention” and changing documentation requirements in neighboring countries.
“We are working to process applications as quickly as possible and get Afghan refugees to Canada as soon as we can,” Cohen wrote.
“We continue to work with our allies and a number of other partners to find new routes for Afghans to leave the country and come to Canada.”
But retired Major General David Fraser, who led NATO troops in Kandahar, says Ottawa is not acting quickly enough as so many Afghans who helped Canada fear for their lives under Taliban rule.
“Everything is better than what we’re doing right now,” Fraser said. “This is not about building a spaceship. It’s not that complex.”
Fraser said he knew of Nazifa’s family through a contact at the military camp where Bashir worked.
“Could we have saved this family? It will be an issue I will struggle with for the rest of my life.”
Ottawa has promised to receive 40,000 Afghan refugees – a process that is expected to take up to two years to complete. About 12,000 applications have been approved so far, with 5,700 of these people now in the country.
“We need a response from the federal government as to why this family could not get out of Afghanistan in time,” Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole wrote in a statement.
He said the new parliamentary committee for Canada’s response to the Taliban’s victory would investigate the girl’s killing.
Walper acknowledged that the crisis poses difficult challenges, but said Ottawa needs to do more to address them.
“There is logjam in the process that needs to be corrected,” Walper said.
“I wish this girl’s death is not for nothing,” he said. “I want her death to wake people up to what’s going on in that country.”