Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is “limited” in what it can do to help Afghans leave the country, as fresh calls to help more people flee emerge following the killing of former Afghan parliamentarian Mursal Nabizada.
The former lawmaker, a fierce advocate for women and girls in the region, was shot and killed by gunmen in her Kabul home on Sunday — the first slaying in the capital of a lawmaker from the previous administration since the Taliban’s takeover.
The development prompted Canadian parliamentarians to issue fresh calls for the government to speed up its efforts to bring home the other eight female former Afghan lawmakers. But, Trudeau said, the Taliban is making it difficult to heed the calls.
“We’re going to continue working to make sure that the most vulnerable people are able to get out,” the prime minister said, speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
“At the same time, we have to recognize that the Taliban is not allowing people to leave, it’s putting people at risk. So our ability to do that is extremely limited.”
Still, Trudeau pledged to “continue to be there for the Afghan people.”
“Our heart breaks for the people of Afghanistan right now,” he said.
An all-party group of six MPs released a joint statement on Monday saying they’ve worked together since last October to bring the remaining female former lawmakers to safety.
The “brutal gender apartheid system” in Afghanistan, they said, is growing more dangerous by the day.
“For the sake of the lives of these eight women, we urge the Canadian government to act on this matter urgently and take immediate action to assist in getting these women to safety,” the statement read.
In a joint statement sent to Global News late Monday, both Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly’s office and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s offices reiterated the government’s pledge to resettle “at least 40,000 Afghan nationals by the end of 2023.”
“Almost 30,000 Afghan refugees now call Canada home. Among them are hundreds of women leaders, including judges, human rights defenders, journalists, community organizers, and Members of Parliament,” the statement read.
“We’ll continue to do everything we can to welcome Afghans safely and quickly.”
That effort, the statement added, includes working with opposition MPs on the issue — and to “bring more women leaders to Canada.”
Still, some opposition MPs questioned whether the government’s efforts are enough. In a tweet on Sunday, NDP MP Heather McPherson — one of the MPs behind the joint, all-party statement — called Nabizada’s killing “heartbreaking.”
“For months, I have worked with MPs from all parties to bring Afghan MPs still trapped in Afghanistan to safety to Canada,” she wrote.
“I can’t help but wonder if MP Nabizada would be alive today if the gov’t had acted faster.”
Meanwhile, Canadian politicians have spoken out against the killing. Both Joly and Fraser’s offices condemned the violence as a “horrific crime.”
“We condemn the murder of Mursal Nabizada, a former Afghan parliamentarian, who bravely fought for the rights of women and girls,” the statement read.
“We offer her loved ones our most sincere condolences. We stand with them in pursuing the accountability they deserve. The perpetrators of this horrific crime must be brought to justice.”
Nabizada was among the few female parliamentarians who stayed in Kabul after the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Police say one of her bodyguards was also killed in the attack on Sunday.
The example Nabizada set, the ministers’ offices wrote, will “continue to be an inspiration for those fighting for change and human rights across the world.”
“Canada will continue to advocate for a coordinated effort by the international community to support Afghan women and Afghan human rights defenders and to pressure the Taliban to uphold human rights,” the statement went on to say.
Meanwhile, with each passing day, the Taliban continues its crackdown on women’s rights in the region.
After their takeover, the Taliban initially said they would not impose the same harsh rules over society as they did during their first rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s.
But they have progressively imposed more restrictions, particularly on women.
They have banned women and girls from schooling beyond the sixth grade, barred them from most jobs and demanded they cover their faces when outside.
— with files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press.