A former interpreter who was tortured by the Taliban while working for the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan has called on the UK to extricate his family from the country.
Mohamad, whose second name has been omitted for his family’s security, fears for the safety of his mother and wife who remain in the country after the Taliban takeover.
Thousands of interpreters who assisted British forces have been allowed to settle in the UK under the Arap (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme. However, it is understood that hundreds of eligible Afghans and their families have been stranded after a series of UK evacuation flight left Kabul this month.
A British citizen in his early 30s, Mohamad first arrived in the UK in 2015 but has not seen his family in person since December 2019 due to the threat to his life and the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2009, he worked with American Special Forces in the Kandahar province, before joining the British forces as a patrol interpreter and cultural adviser in 2011.
Mohamad said the Taliban captured him in 2014, holding him for more than six weeks, beating and threatening to kill him because he was working with the British.
“They thought I had a lot of information … I told them: ‘I’m just an interpreter, I’m not an important guy’,” he told the PA news agency.
“The Taliban cut my left ear and sent a video to my mum and dad," he said, describing his mother's shock as he was left with blood all over his face.
His father, who was also an interpreter with the British Armed Forces, was asked for a large sum of money from the Taliban to stop his son from being killed – which the family could not afford.
Mohamad was released and managed to escape the country, eventually arriving in the UK where he now has citizenship.
He applied for a visa for his partner through the UK’s Afghanistan Locally Employed Staff Ex-Gratia Scheme for husbands and wives of interpreters.
Mohamad spent seven years, during which the couple got married, trying to help his wife to come to the UK from Afghanistan.
In mid-August, her visa application was approved but she could not leave the country because of the Taliban takeover.
“I received an email from the evacuation team in Kabul that 'your wife should come to airport',” he said.
“When my family arrived at the airport there was a massive crowd of people outside the Baron Hotel. She waited six days outside the hotel, but unfortunately she could not make it to get inside the airport.”
Mohamad said his wife fainted in the heat twice and her feet were bleeding from hours standing among the large crowd.
He is appealing to the UK government to help him start the relocation process for her and his family as soon as possible, as he fears for their health.
A desperate Mohamad is now wondering whether to travel to Afghanistan himself, despite the risks associated with his past.
“I was thinking yesterday that I should walk through by foot from other countries to Afghanistan,” he said.
Britain's Ministry of Defence said it would continue to offer support to Mohamad and others facing similar situations. “During Operation Pitting we worked tirelessly to safely evacuate as many people out of Afghanistan as possible, airlifting more than 15,000 people from Kabul including thousands of Arap applicants and their dependents," an MoD representative said.
“We will continue to do all we can to support those who have supported us and our commitment to those who are eligible for relocation is not time-limited and will endure.
“The Arap scheme remains open to applications and we will continue to support those who are eligible.”