Afghan interpreters chant 'save our families' in UK protest

Panic outside Kabul airport as thousands seek evacuation flights

Dozens of Afghan interpreters protested outside the UK Home Office on Monday, demanding that their extended families and former colleagues be evacuated from Afghanistan and saved from the Taliban.

“Save our families,” the group chanted as they held up placards in Westminster, in central London. Most of the protesters said they had served with the British military.

Nato forces are operating evacuation efforts amid chaos at Kabul airport, following the Taliban’s rapid advance through the country. The Taliban has set out a deadline for their departure from Afghanistan on August 31.

The departure of those troops will effectively end in-country evacuation efforts. In the last week, 6,631 Afghans have been evacuated from Kabul.

One protester, who served with UK and Nato forces for around seven years, said his brother — who also worked as an interpreter for Western troops in Afghanistan — was stuck in the crowds outside the airport despite being eligible for evacuation.

“I’ve served them loyally, honestly, and today they are leaving my parents, my family, in a situation where they could be butchered by the Taliban. They cannot come out, they’re scared,” said the interpreter.

“All those who have made it to the checkpoints of the airport, they’re scared … you know, facing every Taliban [member] has become so difficult. Looking into their eyes is so scary. Our families, our colleagues, our brothers who are left behind, for them it’s a nightmare situation.”

At least 20 people have been killed near Kabul airport during evacuation efforts amid reports of stampedes.

“People like us, who deserve the right to be relocated because of the threat and risk that we face, are left in a situation that we cannot even get through the crowd to the actual main door, from where we should be able to be evacuated by Nato forces”.

The group of interpreters also protested outside parliament last Wednesday, a day after the UK announced it would take in 20,000 Afghan refugees over the coming years, in addition to existing resettlement schemes.

But the interpreter said that since the initial demonstration last week the situation had become worse in Kabul. He said the evacuation deadline had created “panic,” as thousands attempted to get a place on the flights out of Afghanistan.

Another interpreter, who worked for the British military for three years and has been resettled in the UK since 2015, said Afghans were “hiding in fear” since the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

He said the government had not “listened to our voice yet. That’s why we are gathered again, in front of the Home Office this time, so they can hear our voice clearly”.

The interpreter said he was speaking to his family every day, as they try to work out a way to get loved ones to safety.

“The Taliban have been looking home by home” for those who worked for Nato and their families members, he said.

He said his family had been able to move home, “but the country is under the control of terrorists. It will not be easy to find a safe home”.

The UK government is expected to push to extend the date that foreign troops leave Afghanistan so more people are able to board evacuation flights.

But the Taliban have warned of consequences if foreign troops stay past August 31.

A statement on Monday said there are 19 members of the UK’s foreign office working on evacuation efforts at Kabul airport, along with hundreds of soldiers.

Updated: August 23rd 2021, 2:31 PM
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