In the last few months, Jawed Haqmal has nurtured deep disappointment in the Canadian military he once served.
He felt let down when the army, with which he worked as a translator in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, did not evacuate him ahead of the Taliban’s takeover of the country this summer.
Later, after being accidentally rescued from Kabul by Ukrainian special forces, he wondered why he was not welcomed to the Canadian military base in western Ukraine – which seemed like an obvious place for a former military translator and his family to wait. while their application for resettlement in Canada was pending.
Now the army has told him it will stop delivering groceries to his family, stopping the only support it provided to an Afghan who risked his life with Canadian soldiers – and who is now a refugee because of it.
When contacted by The Globe and Mail Wednesday, a military spokesman confirmed that grocery supplies had been cut off, explaining that “the supply of humanitarian supplies to evacuees from Afghanistan falls outside the mandate” of Canada’s military mission in Ukraine. But less than 24 hours later, the military reversed its position, saying it was committed to ensuring the Haqmal family would continue to receive basic supplies.
Sir. Haqmal and his extended family of 12 have been living since the end of August in a trio of hotel rooms in Kiev paid for by The Globe, which helped organize their evacuation from Kabul. Following the military’s decision this week to stop buying groceries for the family, The Globe sent money to help Haqmals buy food and other necessities.
“When I got their phone call they said we can not deliver to you [any more]”I felt how alone I was at that moment,” Mr Haqmal said Thursday before the military changed course. “When these military people needed me in Afghanistan, I put my life ahead of them. But now that I really need them, can they not even feed me?”
Afghan refugees fearing Canada has left them dig in a harsh winter in the overseas purgatory
Sir. Haqmal said his family – which includes his pregnant wife and their four school-age children, as well as his infant nephew – had received three deliveries of groceries from the Canadian military during the 12 weeks they have lived in Kiev. He estimated that they were worth about $ 50 each.
It was a small gesture of gratitude alongside the risks Mr Haqmal took while serving as a translator for the Second Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment while operating in the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan in 2009. His decision about working for a foreign military led to death threats that made him flee. He said his family home in Kandahar was recently taken over by Taliban fighters.
Lieutenant Alex Roy, a spokesman for Canadian Joint Operations Command Headquarters, said the grocery deliveries had been “a grassroots effort on the ground by deployed soldiers to help a family in need.” Sub-Lt. Roy said that although the military was “proud” of the initiative, it was outside the mission of Operation Unifier, which has seen about 200 Canadian soldiers deployed to a vast military base in Yavoriv in western Ukraine since 2014. Their job is to help train Ukrainian soldiers for their war against Russian-backed separatists in the southeastern Donbas region.
On Thursday, Lieutenant Julie McDonald said the military was obliged to find a solution that would ensure the Haqmal family would not be “left high and dry” while waiting for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to process their resettlement application. She said two local church groups had agreed to supply groceries to the family and that the military was willing to resume supplies if that arrangement fell through.
“We have made it our business now to make sure they are fed,” she said. She denied that the military had only decided to continue assisting Haqmals after being contacted by The Globe.
Sir. Haqmal said Thursday he had not heard from the military since he was told groceries had been cut off. He said he had not been contacted by any church charity or other organization that offered to help.
The supplies are badly needed, especially as the family’s resettlement has taken much longer than expected. The 15-day visas that the family received on arrival in late August have expired, meaning they are now illegal in Ukraine and at risk of being arrested every time they leave their hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, Mr Haqmal’s pregnant wife, Waranga, has become seriously ill and has required repeated trips to the hospital. Paying for that care has forced Mr. Haqmal to withdraw all the money raised through a GoFundMe campaign organized by Captain Jérémie Verville, a veteran who worked with Mr. Haqmal and Kandahar.
Sir. Haqmal praised the generosity of the individual soldiers he served with, many of whom have donated money to help the family with its rising costs. But he said the top leaders seemed indifferent to the fate of Afghans like him who had once been crucial to the military mission in Afghanistan.
He knows he’s actually one of the lucky ones. He remains in contact with a group of former Canadian military translators and other personnel still trapped in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The situation of about 1,700 Afghans affiliated with the Canadian military deteriorated dramatically earlier this month when a network of safehouses – run by a non-governmental organization led by Canadian veterans of the Afghan war – collapsed when the NGO ran out of money , before the former military personnel could be evacuated.
Some of these former chefs, guards, and translators now live in tents; others are in hotels, they can only afford a few more days. Everyone fears what will happen to them if they are discovered by the Taliban, who have carried out several gruesome executions of Afghans who collaborated with NATO forces during their 20-year presence in the country.
“I’m in a WhatsApp group with them. Believe me, every time I see their situations, my eyes fill with tears. The conditions are so bad [are for] these people who are left behind, ”said Mr Haqmal.
The Haqmal family’s long stay in Ukraine has put pressure on relations between Ottawa and Kiev. After the fall of Kabul, the IRCC issued laissez-passer documents to Haqmals, who said they were “Canadian citizens” – they are not – who “have been granted a visa to enter Canada.”
The Ukrainian government expected the family to be taken to Toronto soon. But Haqmals have instead been left in limbo with no explanation from the IRCC as to why their resettlement has been delayed.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise overview of today’s most important headlines. Sign up today.