February 1, 2016 2:48 pm
Updated: February 2, 2016 11:18 am

‘An absolute disgrace’: Veterans blast Ottawa for ‘abandoning’ Afghan linguist

Sajad (Alex) Kazemi served with Canadian Forces in Operation Moshtarak in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in 2010.

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Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan are outraged over Ottawa’s ‘abandonment’ of an Afghan linguist who faces death threats at home for his service to Canada’s military.

Recently, Sajad (Alex) Kazemi asked the Canadian government to help him emigrate to Canada and escape the insurgents who routinely target and sometimes savagely murder linguists who helped western forces battle the Taliban.

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In response to the story, several Canadian veterans came forward to express their anger and disappointment that a man who risked his life to help them has been “abandoned.”

READ MORE: ‘I will get killed here’: Afghan linguist who served with Canadians pleads for visa

“I feel it’s an absolute disgrace that our country is not helping Alex for all he’s done,” said Neil James, who worked closely with Kazemi in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

“I feel the country’s been so caught up with the Syrian refugees that people like Alex have been forgotten and I think we have a moral obligation to help Alex for everything he’s done for our country.”

Kazemi served with the PPCLI for approximately 10 months in 2009 and 2010, often on the front lines and in combat situations, including Operation Moshtarak, a large-scale offensive including some 15,000 Canadian, U.S., British and French troops.

Several veterans who contacted Global News were reluctant to speak out publicly, citing possible disciplinary action from the military.

“He was right there in it with us,” said another PPCLI veteran who declined to be identified for this story.

“He definitely did risk life and limb … and he was an asset on the battlefield for sure.”

The Canadian government offered a Special Immigration Measure to linguists like Kazemi who were at “individual risk” for their service, but Kazemi says he missed the application deadline because he was working in the field.

Kazemi says his service invited more than just “individual risk”; his family received several death threats and fled their home in Helmand province.

He also says the danger continues in the capital Kabul where he currently resides.

“I know I will get killed here, 100 per cent,” he said.

Immigration Minister John McCallum declined to comment on this story, but an emailed statement from his office said Ottawa has no plans to reopen the visa process for Kazemi and other linguists in similar danger.

READ MORE: Program to bring Afghan ‘terps to Canada ends with most turned away

James says that Canada owes Kazemi better.

“He has earned a place in Canada, for sacrificing his own life for Canadians, and I think it’s disgraceful that he’s been abandoned and forgotten about.”

Another veteran had a blunter message for Ottawa.

“Don’t leave a brother behind,” he said. “That’s about it.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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