Here’s What Life Is Like For Afghans Left Behind

·5-min read
Ahmed (not his real name) and his family are squeezed into one room where they are in hiding. (Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR)
Ahmed (not his real name) and his family are squeezed into one room where they are in hiding. (Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR)

Ahmed* has worked for the British Council in Afghanistan for many years. He is in hiding in Kabul with his wife and children, who are both under the age of 10, fearing for his life if the Taliban come to find him.

Ahmed is able to come to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme but couldn’t get onto an evacuation flight due to the dangerous conditions and crowds at Kabul airport.

The last evacuation flight out of Kabul left on August 30 ending a 20-year war.

This is what a day in his life is like, told in his own words.

*his real name is being protected for his safety.

1am

I can’t sleep due to stress and fear.

Sometimes I wakeup at 1:00am, sometimes at 12:00am, sometimes at 5:00 am. All the time I feel like I’m living a nightmare.

Any time when I hear a door knock, I feel like there is someone knocking on my room door or I feel like there is someone searching for me.

My family is in a dreadful situation nowadays. The situation in Kabul is going to be worse day-by-day and I can’t go back home because our relatives know we left our hometown for the UK.

I really don’t know what to do.

We have no clothes and no other essentials. I am renting the room but I’m afraid if we have to stay here some more days, I can’t pay the bills.

4am

If I sleep well in the night then I wake up at 4:00am after I’ve prayed.

There are two small windows in the room but I can’t see anything from them because they are up to the ceiling.

There are no beds, just 2 blankets. And no other facilities, no living room, no kitchen.

At night I can hear people’s voices talking loudly and sometimes gun shots. I can also hear traffic.

I boil water for tea and then prepare something for breakfast for my kids and wife.

I hardly go out. When I do, I cover my face. I’ll go in the night or in the early morning to get some bread and eggs to cook and eat.

Life is so horrific.

9am

I have two young kids. Both of them ask us to take them out to the bazar. They don’t understand what’s going on.

A balloon seller walks along a street in Kabul. (Photo: HOSHANG HASHIMI)
A balloon seller walks along a street in Kabul. (Photo: HOSHANG HASHIMI)

I spend the day searching for advice from the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office and checking news websites. My wife will read books and newspapers and we wait and wait and wait.

I feel very badly let down by the UK government.

My life is in great threat and danger. I have requested the UK government to please relocate me, my wife, and kids as soon as they can in a safe way, to not leave us behind in this critical situation.

I know at least seven other families in a similar situation, we are all eligible and approved for the ARAP scheme.

We can’t live like this any more.

Every morning, afternoon and night my mother will call us and ask us how we are, what’s happened, and if everything is okay. My family are so worried about us.

During the day I feel just stressed. I think about my mother, father, sisters and brother who are still there in my province and this make me cry sometimes.

1pm

Around lunchtime we might cook eggs, sometimes burgers or something like that.

Me and my wife play some games with our kids but you know kids, they need to go out and play but they can’t. Sometimes they are screaming and crying.

Everything changed so suddenly and I feel so disappointed.

I am so terrified, I just can’t explain how I feel.

7pm

It’s time to bath the kids after we’ve had dinner.

After our kids have gone to sleep, my wife and I usually have a cup of tea and discuss what will happen and what we will do.

We wonder about why this all happened. We had a happy life with our parents and families before this.

I am so shocked to see my country’s situation right now. I can’t believe this has happened to Afghanistan.

Scenes around the abandoned airport area where civilians were processed for evacuations. (Photo: Marcus Yam)
Scenes around the abandoned airport area where civilians were processed for evacuations. (Photo: Marcus Yam)

At night, I think about the future and what if the UK government leaves us behind and doesn’t relocate us. It stresses me out so much I can’t sleep, then I get a headache.

I start thinking lots of wrong thoughts like if the Taliban get me they will kill me but how will they kill me? Will they behead me or shoot me?

We left our homes so everyone knows that we were called by the British Embassy. If the advice is to get to a third country without any support, getting there without any visa is like committing suicide.

I encourage myself that all will be okay inshallah [God willing] and we hope that the UK government won’t leave us behind and they are going to relocate us to the UK as soon as they can.

10.30pm

When I go to sleep I pray to wake up and be taken away from this dreadful situation, to be on our way to relocate to the UK safely.

In the perfect situation, I can see my family very colourful, happy and so beautiful, living in peace without any fears and danger.

When I close my eyes, I can see my kids smiling and playing, riding bikes, doing their school homework, and we are together safe.

A Home Office spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We launched the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) in April and since then have evacuated nearly 10,000 people. The scheme remains open and we are facilitating applications from third countries, for anyone who is eligible. We will work with international partners to put pressure on the Taliban to allow safe passage for those with a right to leave Afghanistan.”

For more details on applying for the ARAP scheme, click here.

If you are an asylum seeker or refugee and need advice, the UK government suggests trying these helplines.

The British Red Cross also suggest further helplines here.

Help and support:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

  • CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.

  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email help@themix.org.uk

  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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