Afghan interpreters risked their lives to help British forces during the long struggle to stabilize the country. Now that the Taliban have taken back command, thousands of those who helped our troops are being resettled across the UK. Ben Cooper spoke to a former performer starting a new life with his young family in a quiet village in Nottinghamshire.
Ahmadullah Waziri lives under a death sentence.
Interpreter of the British army between 2010 and 2011, then lieutenant-colonel in the Afghan national army formed by the Allies, he is in the eyes of the Taliban a collaborator and, from now on, in power, they want revenge.
âThey said we would kill you because you were working with infidels and Western countries and this is not allowed under Islamic Sharia law,â he said.
âI changed my location several times to be safe. We were not able to stay even for a year in one place.
Prior to his stint in the British Army, Ahmadullah had trained at the UK-run Officer Candidate School (OCS), passing out in 2008 as a second lieutenant.
While aiding the British, he frequently went on patrol with troops in the most dangerous war zones, frequently coming under fire with them.
At the end of his time with British forces, he joined the Afghan National Army, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel, leading troops into combat on some of the world’s deadliest battlefields, struggling to hold the Taliban from a distance.
He saw the battle against the Taliban at its height – over the years, this struggle claimed the lives of 120,000 Afghan civilians, soldiers and police, and more than 450 British soldiers.
âI saw a lot of fighting in different provinces,â he said. âI have engaged with the enemy several times. It was very dangerous. Many of my colleagues are dead.
It was a fight he believed in. But when the Taliban returned to the country last summer after the fatal US withdrawal, Ahmadullah decided there were no more options for him, his wife Khalida and their four young daughters. They had to go out.
In July, the family at risk found a lifeline – a safe passage out of the country, under the protection of British forces, backed by the Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Policy (PFRA), launched by the British government in April. of the same year.
âWe were very lucky. The UK government supported us. They saved us and took us to the UK.
Landing in Birmingham on July 26, Ahmadullah, 35, and his family’s new life began.
From there they traveled to Manchester where they were accommodated temporarily; then to Sheffield, then to Southwell, before a permanent home was found for them in the peaceful village of Rainworth, near Mansfield.
âFinally, we came here. It is a peaceful, calm and pleasant neighborhood. I really enjoy my life here. I hope to have citizenship one day.
Ahmadullah has four daughters. Her eldest turned 10 at the end of December and her youngest was only seven months old.
Two of his daughters are now attending school in the region and, he says, are already benefiting from their education. Ahmadullah says their English is improving every day and jokes that they will help him with his English soon.
âAs a father, I am very happy that my daughters are going to school. I can see the big changes in their language skills and they seem very happy. We have a very warm house and we have very good neighbors.
These neighbors, he says, have been kind and welcoming ever since he and his family arrived, some offering help with the many things that needed to be done to get them settled.
Over Christmas, he says the family were blessed with gifts from some of the villagers and local supporters, including Newark MP Robert Jenrick, who brought them a stroller and a “beautiful” teapot as a gift.
âMe and my whole family are very grateful to our neighbors. We received Christmas gifts and money from our neighbors. We are very grateful to the great and kind nation of UK and the government.
âSince July, when I arrived in the UK, I haven’t seen any of those people who don’t like refugees.
With four young children, the new life he and Khalida are adjusting to is anything but calm.
But as time went on and things got better, they made an effort to visit Nottinghamshire more – they’ve already been to the nearby village of Edwinstowe, with its mystical connections to Robin Hood, and, of course, Sherwood Forest.
He declares: âEvery day we have the public road which is really very nice. Every day I walk. We also have Sherwood Forest. In general, I can say that all the places in this neighborhood are peaceful and pleasant.
With a home and her children safe and in school, Ahmadallah’s priority now is to find work.
As a former lieutenant colonel, his skills and experience could ultimately take him far. But for now, he’s focused on getting his SIA security credentials so he can start working, possibly as a security guard at a local store.
Would he ever return to Afghanistan? Ahmadullah gives a sardonic laugh at the idea. The situation there is far too dangerous; the Taliban have the people in their teeth, especially women, and brutally punished Western collaborators like him.
He said, âPeople think the Taliban maybe will be changed and try to improve, but right now we don’t think so.
âNow the Afghan people are really desperate because they realize that the Taliban have not changed. They were beating the women all the time.
âThey are extremists. They will always be extremists.
He might have turned his back on Afghanistan for good, but for the rest of his family still trapped there, unable to escape.
His brother, a doctor, had obtained permission to leave before the Allied occupation collapsed in September. Now he’s stuck there fearing for his life – as punishment for being part of a family that had worked with the British, the Taliban blew up his doctor’s office in Kabul, forcing him into hiding.
âThey are all suffering in bad conditions,â he said. âThey all have problems. They’re hiding. I hope one day they can come to UK and live here.
To that end, he wrote to Mark Spencer, Tory MP for Sherwood, to ask that his family be allowed to leave as part of a government pledge to welcome 20,000 more Afghans over the next few years.
Until then he has to wait, pray for their safety and throw everything into the new start he has been given in Nottinghamshire, the place he now calls home.
âThe only thing we hope for is that I can see my extended family. I am sure we will prove that we will work well here and reimburse the UK. “
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