‘I had to try to save my family’, says Briton who went back to Afghanistan

·4-min read

A British man who fled Afghanistan as a child is in hiding in the country having returned to save his family from the Taliban.

Sharif, whose name has been changed for his own safety and who is in his 30s, was born in Afghanistan but left the country as a teenager and now lives in the Yorkshire area.

He returned to help his family escape after the Taliban assumed control of the country, but days after his arrival the last of the UK and US troops departed.

Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The Taliban were in full control of Kabul's international airport on Tuesday, after the last U.S. plane left its runway, marking the end of America's longest war
Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the US withdrawal in Kabul (Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP)

“I knew this extremist group was going to be a threat for my family and I had to save as many as I can,” he told the PA news agency.

“I couldn’t sit down and watch my family die or get killed by this extremist group. I had to come to rescue them.

“When I came to Kabul airport it was absolutely chaos.”

Sharif returned to Kabul airport over the following days but was unable to find any UK troops to help him before they left.

“There was gunfire and celebrations and that’s where it broke my heart and I was shattered,” he said of the moments after US troops completed their evacuation.

“I was worried that I’m stuck in Kabul and god knows for how long, and if I’m lucky I’ll stay alive.”

Since then Sharif has been hiding in various places, moving with family members to evade the Taliban and splitting into different groups for safety.

Sharif and his family are Hazara Shias, a religious group which fears persecution at the hands of the Taliban.

In 1998, the Washington Post reported that Taliban members had gunned down Hazaras in front of their families, while in August this year Amnesty International wrote that Taliban fighters massacred nine Hazara men in July, torturing three of them.

“We get killed so easily by this extremist group,” Sharif said.

“It’s happened, genocide, against my ethnicity, all the time.

“We have a letter, a direct threat from Taliban. If they find us or see us they’re going to kill us.

“I request, please, we don’t deserve this. My family don’t deserve this. We need urgent help to evacuate the country.”

He said that he submitted his family’s case to his MP who passed it on to the UK Government, while he has been in contact with the UK Government’s helpline regularly, but has so far not received the assistance he is looking for.

Taliban special force fighters arrive outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military's withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The Taliban were in full control of Kabul's airport on Tuesday, after the last U.S. plane left its runway, marking the end of America's longest war
Taliban special force fighters patrol near the Hamid Karzai International Airport (Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP)

A friend managed to get someone from the helpline to speak to him over the phone the day he arrived in Kabul, but he was told to leave the airport and find a safe place.

He had initially planned to try to assist his family from the UK but felt he had to take matters into his own hands after unsuccessfully appealing for help.

“When I looked at the situation and I’m not getting no response from nobody, the only thing I could do for my family (was) to physically come and grab my family and take them to the airport and evacuate them,” he said.

“I couldn’t feel comfortable staying in England and watching my family to go through it alone.”

Sharif said that he is the only member of his family group with a British passport, adding that half of his family don’t have a passport at all and are unable to obtain one currently.

“I feel so helpless at the moment, I don’t have no plan,” he said.

“I’m just hoping that British government can do something.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said they had been in contact with Sharif but could not comment on his case.

A Government spokesperson said: “The UK’s evacuation operation helped over 15,000 people to safety including British nationals, Afghan interpreters, and other vulnerable people.

“Whilst the success of that operation exceeded our assumptions, we know that there are many left in difficult circumstances. That is why our utmost priority is to continue to work with allies and partners in the region to ensure safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan.

“At the same time, we are also establishing the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme to help those most at risk. This complements our existing ARAP scheme which has already supported thousands of Afghans start their new life in the UK.”

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