Beaten and betrayed: Translators left behind in Kabul by the British are hunted by the Taliban following a shocking MoD security blunder
This is the shocking reality of the Taliban ‘amnesty’ for Afghans who worked for Britain. Ahmed’s shoulders, back and buttocks are covered in bruises where he was struck with a steel cable and rifle butts.
The photograph was taken by the Daily Mail on Monday, ten days after the assault in his home, in front of his terrified family.
His injuries have had time to fade. One can only imagine what they looked like shortly after being inflicted.
Ahmed’s ‘crime’ was to have worked as an interpreter at the British embassy in Kabul. His further misfortune was to be one of those who were inexplicably left behind by the UK Government following the country’s chaotic evacuation last month.
Ahmed’s shoulders, back and buttocks are covered in bruises where he was struck with a steel cable and rifle butts
I met Ahmed with his colleague Shoaib at a secret location. They are among five out of 24 British embassy translators who are still in Afghanistan. Shoaib is being hunted by the Taliban and has spent the past month in hiding. So far he has not been located. Ahmed was less lucky.
‘It was late evening and there was a knock on my door,’ he recalls. ‘When I answered it, two armed men immediately pushed inside and started hitting me.
‘My wife was screaming and my children crying. The Taliban were trying to pull me out of the door and my family were begging them to stop. Eventually they left me there, saying, “We will be back to punish you more”. Since then I have left my home and gone into hiding. My little daughter is especially worried. It has been traumatic for us all.’
More so, since his name was one of those leaked in a potentially fatal Ministry of Defence data breach last week.
The plight of embassy interpreters has been taken up by the Mail’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign. We revealed how the chief embassy translator with 17 years’ service for the UK was rejected for relocation three weeks after being shot in a Taliban ambush. He was one of more than 20 initially refused sanctuary because they were employed through contractors rather than directly by the Foreign Office.
The photograph was taken by the Daily Mail on Monday, ten days after the assault in his home, in front of his terrified family
Within hours of the case being raised, then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab ordered the decision be reversed and many are now in the UK after escaping on evacuation flights. But not everyone was rescued in time.
Ahmed and Shoaib were employed by the Canadian contractor GardaWorld, which supplied translators and guards to the embassy. Both had worked for foreign contractors for the past 16 years. They were marked men.
‘Earlier this year we applied for the ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme but were refused because we were not directly employed by the embassy,’ Ahmed says. ‘Then the policy changed and the British said every contractor at the embassy would be granted a visa.
‘In late July and August most of our colleagues received calls to say they had been accepted for evacuation. But I was not.’
His eligibility confirmation only came through on August 24 when the evacuation was almost over and security was worsening. It was too late. He tried to go to the airport with his wife and four children but was turned back by the Taliban.
He was then one of more than 200 embassy contractors and dependents bussed to the airport on August 26. They waited for hours in the heat until almost 6pm when the first Islamic State suicide bombs exploded among waiting would-be evacuees nearby.
‘Then the Taliban started shooting in the air and firing tear gas which came into our bus and it was hard to breathe,’ Ahmed says.
‘We got a call from inside the airport telling us to leave and find a safe place.’ Later that night the interpreters and families were again called to the airport – and again were not allowed inside.
Last week, Ahmed’s situation grew worse, thanks to the MoD blunder. He found himself one of the 255 former employees of the embassy and military whose names, emails and photos were compromised in a round-robin email sent by mistake from London. ‘My family are now even more worried,’ he says. ‘One of my relatives called me and said “I saw your name!” and I said “No,” and he said “Yes, I saw your name and email”.
‘That list was forwarded and now it has gone viral.’
He shows me a social media post which does indeed contain the list with his name on.
Ahmed says: ‘Every time [the British] do something we are further compromised. We were called three times to go to the airport and so each time we would put on our rucksacks and go, and the Taliban and their informers saw us going.
‘Then we were sent back home and had to face the consequences. We are under such great stress.’
He adds: ‘Last night there was a Taliban arrest in a different part of my apartment building. They went to the home of a former special forces soldier. Everyone was told to switch off their phones and no males were allowed into the building for two hours. After that they took the guy away but we felt that we would be next. The Taliban fighters were everywhere.’
Ahmed is bewildered and resentful. ‘The BBC evacuated everybody from here this week (70 local staff and their dependants according to sources) and they were not in more danger than us.
This is the shocking reality of the Taliban ‘amnesty’ for Afghans who worked for Britain
‘The Nowzad animal clinic [run by former Royal Marine Pen Farthing] was totally evacuated, including all the dogs. They were not in more danger than us.’
There is a small light at the end of this dark tunnel. On Friday he received a new email from ARAP, bearing a new personal reference number. It could mean a step closer to safety – if the Taliban don’t find him again first. There is no such encouragement for his colleague Shoaib, who has yet to receive any indication from Britain that he is eligible for evacuation. A mixed martial arts expert, he worked as an armed close protection officer for foreign VIPS before working at the embassy.
He is from the Panjshir, where his home has been commandeered by the Taliban as a military HQ. ‘They were asking questions about who owned the house and one of my cousins, the motherf*****, gave them my name and told how I worked in Kabul for the British,’ he says. ‘Everyone wants to survive. People are under a lot of pressure to inform, even on their relatives.’
He HAS moved into a safe house in Kabul and changed his appearance. One change is not of his own doing. His hair has started to turn white. He is only 31.
Earlier this week, Mail photographer Jamie Wiseman and our local fixer were briefly held at gunpoint by Taliban fighters. They were near an address that had been an orphanage where Jamie had taken pictures 20 years ago. It is now the home of the deputy chairman of Kabul’s main electricity company. The Taliban were lying in wait to arrest the executive for reasons that were not made clear.
It comes as an Afghan sniper who served alongside British forces and missed out on one of the final mercy flights from Kabul was executed by the Taliban.
Noor, 29, and his family waited for days in the Baron hotel, the British base at the edge of the airport, but could not make it on to a plane to freedom, his brother revealed yesterday.
Within two weeks, Noor was shot repeatedly by two gunmen in front of his young family.
In Kabul, the Taliban were said to have announced the closure of driving schools for women. Barbers are reportedly being banned from trimming beards. And now a further nail has been driven into the coffin of Afghan female rights. The Taliban have banned women from classes or work at Kabul University ‘until an Islamic environment is created’.
The Taliban grip on all aspects of life continues to tighten.