Afghan interpreters: 'Our colleagues have been beheaded. We are next'

·5-min read
The United Nations office in Afghanistan's western Herat province was attacked by "anti-government elements" on 30 July
The United Nations office in Afghanistan's western Herat province was attacked by "anti-government elements" on 30 July

Afghans interpreters employed by the British Army have said they fear beheadings at the hands of a resurgent Taliban, as the UK Government’s resettlement process has been besieged by delays.

Their pleas for help come as Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to resettle more Afghans who helped the British military during the almost twenty year war.

The Taliban has made no secret that it has placed Afghan interpreters on its kill list, viewing them as traitors for working with coalition troops during the country’s brutal 20-year conflict which has claimed the lives of over 70,000 civilians.

In May, Sohail Pardis, an Afghan translator who worked alongside US soldiers for 16 months, was beheaded by Taliban soldiers at a road checkpoint outside Kabul in May.

Eddie Idress, a former Special Forces interpreter and friend of Mr Pardis, told The Telegraph: “I have lost 17 friends so far, all killed by Taliban.”

“Sohail was optimistic, he thought that he would be leaving soon, he thought he would not be abandoned,” Mr Idress said.
Afghan and Taliban forces clashed again on the outskirts of Herat, the country's third largest city, on Saturday, a day after a police guard was killed when a United Nations compound in the western city came under attack.

The militants have seized scores of districts across Afghanistan in recent months, including in Herat province, where the group has also captured two border crossings adjoining Iran and Turkmenistan.

Mr Idress said he currently knew of four interpreters who were all in hiding in the provinces and were having to keep changing locations, some with families in tow.

A security personnel stands guard on top of a vehicle outside United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
A security personnel stands guard on top of a vehicle outside United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan


He added: "Thousands of interpreters have been killed. Every one of the interpreters will know someone who has been killed by the Taliban.


Now, interpreters, who worked with British troops in Afghanistan and who are currently in hiding in Kabul, have told the Sunday Telegraph they fear they will be next.

A 34-year-old who worked as an interpreter said he had his request for asylum form dismissed twice under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

“It’s clear everybody knows the Taliban will kill those who worked with the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) or NATO if they worked one single day. It’s clear because the Taliban have no mercy for anyone.”

He added that he “has fear” the beheading of Mr Pardis will “happen to me too”.
The MoD said it had already supported more than 2,200 former Afghan staff and their families to resettle in the UK. The Sulha Alliance, an Afghan interpreters campaign group, has estimated that the British forces employed more than 3,000 translators and 4,000 other staff in total - meaning many are still vulnerable in Afghanistan.

The first flight evacuating Afghan interpreters and others who worked alongside American troops in Afghanistan landed on Friday in Washington.

 An Afghan security official stand guard outside the UN office in Herat
An Afghan security official stand guard outside the UN office in Herat

The American government has also approved around £700 million of further funding to expand and accelerate its visa application process for its former Afghan employees.

Another interpreter, 38, was employed by the British Army as a patrol translator in Helmand province from 2006 to 2014. He was then appointed to work with British staff in the Sandhurst Military Academy in Kabul.

He said: “You never knew if you would return to the compound alive. I was on patrol and we were ambushed, first with an IED that killed two British soldiers that I was with. Then, the enemy started firing on us and I had to jump in a ditch.”

Taliban officials have visited his family home in Afghanistan’s Paktia province and tortured his brother, also sending him written death threats.

“Anything can happen to me now. There is even a high risk here in Kabul as the Taliban have spies and infiltrators here, target killings occur. I fear every single person that crosses me, I think they could kill me” said the father-of-five, who has recently withdrawn his children from school fearing they could be kidnapped.

A translator, who worked alongside British troops in Helmand province said: “The Taliban left me a message to say that we have not forgotten you, British spy, soon we will find you and behead you.”

He says he and his family were informed they were eligible for relocation to the United Kingdom in January but he still hasn’t received permission to travel.

After visiting the British Embassy in Kabul earlier in July he was told his security checks had only just been sent to the British Home Office.

He added: “We have a joke in Afghanistan that the application process is like an Afghan salad, all mixed and thrown about everywhere. There are people relocated weeks after they were made eligible and then people like me who are still waiting after seven months. I don’t think they are properly assessing the applications.”

“I enjoyed working for the British and I have a lot of good memories. I think British people are fair but the British government is different. They are not treating us fairly.”

Earlier this week 35 retired British senior military commanders who served in Afghanistan wrote to the Prime Minister warning that they were “gravely concerned” about former Afghan employees' safety, now that the Taliban controls half of Afghanistan’s 419 districts.

The letter said: "If any of our former interpreters are murdered by the Taliban in the wake of our withdrawal, the dishonour would lay squarely at our nation's feet."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting