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Army hunts for ‘Afghan villagers’ in Burnaby mall

Nazima Karimi-Seraj has had an exciting couple of years. She’saccompanied Canadian troops on patrol through Afghan villages and evenserved a (very) short term as Afghanistan’s minister of education.

Nazima Karimi-Seraj has had an exciting couple of years. She’s accompanied Canadian troops on patrol through Afghan villages and even served a (very) short term as Afghanistan’s minister of education.

She’s done so without having to leave Northern Alberta.

Looking to minimize casualties and foster understanding between its forces and Afghan people it’s trying to protect, Canada’s military has turned to the bright lights and movie magic of Hollywood North for help creating Afghan villages on the Canadian Prairies.

Karimi-Seraj, an Afghan, has participated in 10 military training sessions over the past three years. In that time she’s played an interpreter and a government minister.

“It saves lives,” Karimi-Seraj said. “It gives you a boost to know that you’re contributing to the cause. And it brings down the casualties on the civilian and military side.”

Rhonda Fisekci, a Calgary-based casting director, held an open casting call at the Holiday Inn at Metrotown yesterday. She was looking for Afghan men and women to play villagers, leaders, mullahs, interpreters and police chiefs.

She was also looking for amputees of any ethnicity for “heavy casualty” exercises.

No weapons or live fire is used.

“A lot of the people are very patriotic,” said Fisekci, who expanded her search to Vancouver because bigger training sessions are planned and the pool of actors in Alberta is finite.

“They’re doing it because they want their country to be safe. They’re doing it to help the Canadians ... and let’s face it, it’s not a bad paycheque.”

If booked, actors make $195 to $290 a day. The sessions run from eight to 25 days at the Canadian Forces base at Wainwright, Alta.

Fisekci said the British and U.S. forces found such training exercises significantly reduced civilian and military casualty rates.

“It drastically reduced the numbers because they were able to diffuse situations and handle situations in an informed way.”

Ramini Amiri, 24, was among those at yesterday’s casting call with friend Khalid Rahimi.

Amiri was young when he left his country and saw the experience as a way to learn more about Afghanistan.

“It’ll be a very good experience,” said Amiri, a loan-prevention officer who hopes to pursue a career in policing. “I deal with people. I enjoy working with people.”

 
 
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