by Rideau Bridge to Canada

Only a few short weeks ago, the country that first came to mind when we thought of helping refugees was Afghanistan. It was only nine months ago that the leaders of Afghanistan fled their country and the Taliban walked into Kabul unopposed. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee to safety. They are scattered around the Middle East, Europe, and even as far away as East and West Africa, all hoping to be allowed to settle somewhere and rebuild their lives in a safe place. Canada has promised to take in 40,000. Now, we are transfixed by a shocking new disaster in Ukraine, after Russia’s unprovoked aggression and war of conquest.

And yet, we should not forget our commitment to help these Afghan refugees. So far, about 8,000 Afghans have been admitted to Canada, and there are many more being processed, including a family destined for Merrickville.

While the Taliban has reduced the level of violence after the American withdrawal last August, the future does not look promising. The United States warned the Taliban that pursuing power through military rather than political means would lead to the same result that Afghanistan suffered under Taliban rule in the 1990s; it would preside over an impoverished, pariah state. The Taliban’s shadowy Supreme Leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, and his allies ignored the warning, which now seems to be coming to pass.

The country was extraordinarily dependent upon foreign aid when the Taliban sought a military victory. Given that the Taliban formed a government that included individuals and groups on international terrorist lists, the United States, joined by its Western allies, are not willing to prop up the new government and have frozen its foreign assets and introduced sanctions. The Taliban’s new friends in the region, and beyond, have not filled the gap left by the withdrawal of Western aid, with catastrophic consequences for the Afghan population.

The new government is also not representative of the country. The Taliban is a Pashtun dominated movement, and has created almost a uniquely Pashtun-led government. But the Pashtuns are only 40% of the population, and the other three main ethnic groups, the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, and the Hazaras, have been largely excluded. Talks hosted by Iran, between the Taliban and non-Pashtun groups demanding a share in a more decentralized government, have so far failed. The country faces the prospect of renewed sectarian fighting.

Most importantly, the place of Afghan women has been reversed. The new government has no women in its cabinet, and their access to education and employment, while not completely cut off, has been greatly reduced. Educated women who had positions in the old regime live in fear. In recent news, the Taliban have closed schools to teenage girls, having decided that this age group do not require further education.

What can we do about it? Precious little. But we can help.

There is a family whose application under Canada’s special Afghan refugee program is now being processed, and, if and when it is successful, a family of three adult women and two children will be coming to our area to start a new life. Similarly, the close relatives of this small family group are being processed by CARR in Perth, Ontario – it is hoped that all fourteen members of the same family can be reunited in Canada to start a new chapter in their lives. Yes, we can help.

Rideau Bridge to Canada is a group of volunteers based in Merrickville who have successfully sponsored two Syrian refugee families. It is now sponsoring an Afghan family which has fled Afghanistan. RBC has been, and will be, hosting a number of fundraising events including: an online auction of donated items, a charity poetry workshop in June, and a charity golf tournament in September. Donations may be made through the ‘donate’ page on


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