Photo: Canadian Press
Afghan refugees shout slogans during a rally outside the local UNHCR representative office building in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. Texan YouTuber helped 170 Afghans escape to Canada safely. They arrived in Calgary earlier this week and will be resettling in Edmonton.
A YouTuber offering investment tips helped lead the exodus of 170 Afghans from the Taliban to Canada.
David Lee, a Texas-based investor, helped a large group of stranded Afghans reach the border with Pakistan after the Taliban came under control last August.
Filmmakers, members of Afghanistan’s artistic community and human rights activists were among the thousands who arrived in Calgary earlier this week.
They fled Kabul last summer when the Taliban took control but were stranded in Kandahar, south of Afghanistan, with no funds to reach the border with Pakistan. He had a few days to close it before crossing the border, but he had spent all his money by running away from Kabul.
Lee, who had previously funded the exodus of a group of 38 thousand to Pakistan as well as emergency food shipments to Afghanistan, was contacted by an Afghan from an aid organization in the United States to see if Can he help immediately?
Members of the 170-member group do not want to reveal their identities for fear of Taliban retaliation against friends and family.
According to Sen. Salma Ataullahan, Taliban extremists have targeted democracy and women activists, as well as musicians, breaking their instruments and beating them, who was born in Pakistan and has links with many Afghans. She said that a professional Afghan musician she knew buried her instrument for fear of persecution.
According to a BBC report, the Taliban have also imposed strict restrictions on what Afghans can watch and banned women from appearing in television dramas. The Ministry of Virtue and Prevention has instructed broadcasters not to show films or programs that are “against Islamic or Afghan values”.
Along with some of his YouTube followers, Lee raised around US$12,000 within hours to fund taxi fares and other costs to enable refugees to enter Pakistan before the border closes.
Lee, who teaches investing via YouTube, had previously helped a group of 38 Afghans, including the family of a University of British Columbia student, cross the border to Pakistan. He warned the contact who had sought his help that the group had only a few days to leave the country before the Afghan-Pakistan border near Quetta was closed.
But local bus services that could take them to the border were stopped after the Taliban came to power.
“They wanted to cross the border but they were stuck. He had spent all his money to go to Kandahar. Taxis were charging ten times the normal price. I had helped 38 other people cross the border and I said, ‘Your group needs to move on as quickly as possible,'” he said.
“I tapped a bunch of people watching videos from my network and investors, and within hours we got the fees – it was about $12,000 for their cost, most of it for transportation. They just timed it. But after a few days the land border was closed.”
The money was sent to Pakistan, where a go-between managed to arrange transportation for the group of thousands.
The Hazaras are one of the largest minorities in Afghanistan and speak Hazaraki, a dialect of Persian. They are also found in parts of Iran and Pakistan, with large populations in Quetta. Historically they have faced persecution in Afghanistan, which also includes the predominantly Pashtun Taliban.
The border, near Quetta, was closed within days of the refugees crossing. Some in the group almost never made it past, Lee said. One man spent three days at the border trying to persuade the guards to cross him. At the border, the refugees snatched their belongings from them and then returned to Pakistan.
From Seema they left for Quetta where they slept on the floor of an unheated marriage hall.
In Islamabad, with the help of human rights groups, he was referred to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who referred him to Canada’s “Special Humanitarian Program” – two established to help bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. one of. The program aims to help vulnerable groups including human rights activists, women leaders, persecuted religious or ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and journalists.
In Islamabad, Lee said, Canadian embassy staff interviewed refugees and took biometric data before they were approved to immigrate to Canada.
Thousands were part of a group of 252 Afghan refugees who were welcomed into Canada by Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on Tuesday, and previously admitted through a special humanitarian program.
The day after their plane landed in Calgary, the group’s leader sent a message to Lee to inform Lee that the entire group was now on Canadian soil and was safe and well.
The group is now in isolation at a Calgary hotel and will travel to Edmonton when they are out of quarantine, Lee said.
Lee, who lives in Texas, hopes to travel to Edmonton to meet members of the group when the pandemic is over.
“I was personally very happy when they arrived,” he said. “Their and future generations’ lives will be forever changed.”