A woman who fled to Canada as a refugee, after her husband shot her in the face in Afghanistan, says she’s getting heartbreaking pleas for help from women still trapped in the country.
Shakila Zareen, when she was only 17 years old, was forcibly married to a much older cousin, 14 years her senior, who had links to the Taliban.
In 2013, her husband shot her in the face, leaving her with life-altering injuries that required 23 reconstructive surgeries. She still has more to go.
In 2018, Canada accepted her as a refugee.
With the Taliban now once again in control of Afghanistan, she’s terrified about what will happen to her family that remains in the country.
“My ex-husband shot me by gun. He’s working with Taliban and my family is still in Afghanistan. And now I’m afraid,” she told Global News.
“See my body. I’m not smiling. I lost my smile. I don’t want to cry again. I am strong, but right now I’m not strong.”
Since escaping Afghanistan, the 25-year-old has become an internationally renowned activist for women’s rights.
But that fight, along with her criticism of the Taliban, has made targets of her two sisters and three brothers — one of whom was a member of the Afghan military.
The family is now in hiding, and Zareen said she’s begun to receive threatening messages from her former brother-in-law, including photos of armed men.
“I’m so scared the Taliban is coming to kill them,” she said.
“Every time I check my phone, in my mind someone text me, ‘I kill your brother or sister.’ I can’t sleep. I have a lot of depression.”
Zareen’s siblings are just some of the thousands of Afghans desperate to flee since the Taliban’s rapid rise to power last month.
All foreign forces, including the Canadian and U.S. militaries, left the country in August after a 20-year war.
The Taliban claims it has changed, but Zareen said it is not true. She said she’s been bombarded with messages from women and girls who want the world to know they’re living in hell.
“My heart (is) bleeding, especially for girls. Every day they text me: ‘Shakila, help me, they will kill me,'” she said.
“I can’t do anything.”
Zareen credits Justin Trudeau with saving her life. She is now begging him to give safe passage to her siblings and so many other vulnerable Afghans who’ve been left behind.
“I want the help for Justin Trudeau to help my family,” she said.
“I just to say help my family, especially girls, because it’s hard time for women in Afghanistan.”