Afghan interpreters protest in Westminster urging government to save families ahead of Kabul deadline

·3-min read
Afghan interpreters protest in Westminster urging government to save families ahead of Kabul deadline

Dozens of Afghan interpreters have pleaded for “humanity” from the government to help evacuate their families from Afghanistan.

They are desperate for their families to get out before August 31 over fears they will face danger from the Taliban.

Some 40 protesters gathered outside of the Home Office in central London on Monday to urge ministers not to “leave anyone behind” ahead of the evacuation deadline when US troops are set to withdraw.

Demonstrators held placards saying the government had a moral obligation to protect Afghan allies while others held photos showing graphic images of deaths across 20 years of conflict with the Taliban.

Rafi Hottak, one of the organisers who worked with British soldiers from early 2006 to 2011, called on the government to offer a “proper procedure for people like us who have served in Nato forces with all our honesty and integrity”.

He said: “We know the Americans handed over the Afghan government to the terrorist group that we started fighting 20 years ago. However, they did not put measures right or pull out properly.

“There is no procedure to help those who helped them in the past 20 years.”

Mr Hottak said he heard from a number of British citizens who have faced horrors while stuck in Afghanistan while his brother was injured when he fell off the wall at Kabul airport while trying to flee.

“Our lives and families are at risk,” he added.

Protest by Afghanistan interpreters for the British Army (AP)
Protest by Afghanistan interpreters for the British Army (AP)

“The UK and American government knew what was happening. They could have, if they wanted to, put the right measures in place and those who were going to be prioritised could have had a channel from which they could have escaped.”

Ismatullah Nabizada, a former interpreter who came to the UK through the relocation scheme in 2016, said he is still in touch with his family but the lack of clarity has meant “everyone is scared” while trying to get in touch with the embassy.

“Our country is taken over by the Taliban. We don’t know what’s happening in the future,” he said.

“You still can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. Sometimes I think it’s a dream. It’s a shock, even for us.”

Ex interpreter Mohammed Zaheer, who came to the UK in 2015, said the situation in Afghanistan was a “disaster” which he never believed would happen.

“There is no bright future. There is nothing to do. We worked with the army and now my family is in danger,” he said.

Former Afghan interpreters protest in front of the Home Office in Westminster (PA Wire)
Former Afghan interpreters protest in front of the Home Office in Westminster (PA Wire)

Mr Zaheer added he is worried for his brother in Afghanistan who “cannot even go to the market” as he worked with the US Government-led Provincial Reconstruction Team.

“They won’t be able to talk to me. Facebook, everything will go,” he said.

“It’s not just my family. Everyone here is asking the British government to think about our families and bring them here.”

The protest came hours after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Kabul evacuation effort is “down to hours now, not weeks” as he conceded Britain’s involvement will end when the US leaves Afghanistan.

The Taliban also said any attempt to continue the operation past August 31 would “provoke a reaction” as Boris Johnson prepared to press Joe Biden for an extension to the deadline.

With the UK still hoping to evacuate thousands more people, the Prime Minister will urge the US president to delay the withdrawal of forces from Kabul airport during a summit of G7 leaders.

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