Winnipeggers rally to raise awareness about Afghanistan crisis

Waving Afghan flags and holding signs reading “Your 9/11 is our 24/7” and “Free Afghanistan,” several dozen people took to the steps of the Manitoba legislative building Saturday afternoon to raise awareness of the crisis unfolding in that country.

The event was put on by Winnipegger Bashir Faqiri who says he has several family members stranded in Afghanistan after the Taliban largely took control in a lightning offensive.

“It’s not an Afghan thing, it’s a humanitarian crisis,” said Faqiri.

“The whole reason I started was because anytime I spoke to anybody outside of the Afghan community that didn’t have family there they were kind of confused about what was happening.”

Faqiri’s goal has since shifted from words to action, saying he’s encouraging people to press their government representatives to do more to help those facing a dire situation in his home country.

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Read more: U.S. winding down Afghanistan evacuation as Taliban set take charge of airport: officials

“I want (people) to write out to the MLAs; urge them to please do something,” Faqiri said.

“The more people write about it to the MLAs, the more they have proof to send out to the federal government and lead them to do something, get the evacuation going, get our citizens out and be able to expand the eligibility for the Afghan refugee program.”

Bashir Faqiri looks on during a rally in Winnipeg to raise awareness about the crisis in Afghanistan Saturday. Matt Purchase / Global News

On Thursday, Canada’s acting chief of the defence staff said their evacuation operations had ceased, leaving an open-ended question about what will happen to those left behind.

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Since becoming a semi-public figure in his efforts to raise awareness about the crisis, Faqiri says he’s been receiving messages through social media from people asking how they can get family members out of Afghanistan, and he has in turn been providing information on immigration resources.

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Faqiri says efforts to raise money through GoFundMe to send to people in need have been complicated by the deteriorating situation.

Read more: Winnipeg family stranded in Afghanistan as Canada ends Kabul evacuation effort

“It’s not working out because of the Americans freezing the Afghani and so forth, and then … the Taliban are controlling the government and the banks and things like that,” Faqiri said.

“That’s why we’re urging the federal government to put boots on the ground, find a way to not only evacuate these people, but also somehow get this money to them safely and in the right hands.”

On Thursday, the government issued a press release saying Canada will be increasing its humanitarian aid to “trusted” organizations that work on the ground in Afghanistan.

While the government had previously earmarked $27.3 million for Afghanistan this year, another $50 million is being pledged as an initial start on the humanitarian work to be done in the country.

Several dozen people took to the steps of the Manitoba legislative building Saturday afternoon to raise awareness of the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. Matt Purchase / Global News

However, worries remain for Faqiri who says “90 per cent” of his family is in Afghanistan.

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“There’s a lot of people that I know, and even including, for example, the American soldiers I met there and the diplomats and so forth, so it’s not just my family, it’s not just friends, it’s people I met on the street,” Faqiri said.

“When one of us bleeds, we all bleed.”

–With files from Amanda Connolly

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