British Army interpreter wins fight to have the UK help his father to flee Afghanistan

But Jamal Barak says his disabled brother has been left behind because he is over 18

The son of a former British Army employee in Afghanistan has won his fight to have the UK help his father to escape from the Taliban.

But in a bittersweet twist the family is being forced to leave his disabled brother behind. The family say the UK refused to take him because he is over 18.

Jamal Barak, a former military interpreter who now lives in England, had pleaded with the UK authorities to help his father, Shista Gul, leave Afghanistan over fears he would be killed.

Mr Gul had to go into hiding when the Taliban took control of Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, where he lived with his wife and five other sons.

He worked as a gardener for the British Army in a military compound in Helmand province for seven years, but the British government had refused him permission to be relocated to the UK.

"Thanks to all the support I have received and the help from The National in highlighting our case, the UK agreed to help my father and bring him and my mum and brothers to the UK," he told The National.

"It's fantastic news. I'm emotional talking about it. They are due to land in the UK on Friday.

"When I finally see them at the airport there will be tears. It is a year since I last saw them and there have been times I thought I'd never see my father again."

The Taliban had threatened his father and repeatedly gone to the family home to arrest him.

After the UK's U-turn, he was told to travel to Kabul.

"My father committed no crime, all he did was work for the British Army and the Taliban want to kill him because of it," he said.

"I have fought for so long to get them to safety over here. I'm crying thinking about the fact it is finally happening."

Despite the UK decision to help them escape, the moment is bittersweet because Mr Barak's brother, Mahmood, 20, who was disabled two years ago after being shot by the Taliban, has been left behind because he is over 18, according to the family.

Mr Barak told The National that his brother has now been seized by the Taliban.

"It's very hard to explain how I feel," he said.

"I'm so happy that my father and little brothers will be safe, but having to leave Mahmood behind is heartbreaking for us.

"He was left disabled after the Taliban shot him two years ago. The Ministry of Defence told us he could not come to the UK as he is over 18. We are hoping we can get him help in the future.

"But sadly this week the Taliban arrested him outside our home, he was handcuffed and taken away. We are hoping he will be released. He has done nothing wrong."

Mr Barak came to the UK under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme, because of his work as an interpreter with the British Army for eight years.

He was shot twice by the Taliban while working on missions and entering Taliban-held provinces with British troops.

His father's application for the Arap scheme was previously refused on the grounds he did not fit the criteria, because a gardener was not classed as a priority role.

His father received several commendations from the British Army during his service.

One was a certificate of appreciation which thanked Mr Gul, 46, for his “excellent duties”, another praised him for his “outstanding horticultural support".

This month British diplomats travelled to Afghanistan to discuss the treatment of minorities, women and girls with senior officials in the new Taliban government.

It is the first time the UK has sent officials to the country to hold talks with the Taliban leaders since the mass evacuation of Kabul in August.

Updated: October 14th 2021, 1:57 PM
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