Today
Tue 25 January 2022

As the fiasco UK Government’s evacuation of Afghanistan is exposed, Byline Times speaks to the son of a family terrorised by the Taliban because their father worked for the British Army

A whistleblower has warned that a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August led to people being left to die at the hands of the Taliban, as Byline Times speaks exclusively to a young man in hiding who believes his family is in danger. 

Farzin’s (not his real name) story comes as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab face accusations of overseeing an incompetent response to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan earlier this year. The Government evacuated 15,000 people in August, but many vulnerable families like Farzin’s remain.

Raphael Marshall, who had worked at the FCDO for three years, claimed “it is clear that some of those left behind have since been murdered by the Taliban”. Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Marshall alleged bureaucratic chaos, ministerial intervention, lack of planning and a short-hours culture in the department. Raab has disputed the claims. 

In Kabul, the diplomatic row has real-world consequences. Farzin is in hiding with his young siblings, terrified for his family’s safety. They are at risk of Taliban violence because his father worked with the British military for five years. His father, who Farzin explains has British citizenship, is hiding in a separate location. 

Byline Times has seen a copy of Farzin’s father’s identity card issued by the Ministry of Defence. 

“We are moving heaven and earth,” Farzin told Byline Times. “But they don’t open the scheme yet. We are in serious danger. They don’t care about us.”

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A Legacy of Violence

The family were living in the Baghlan province in Afghanistan when Farzin’s father started working for the British military in Helmand. The area was often threatened by Taliban loyalists, and so his father kept his work secret – even from his family. 

In 2009, the Taliban arrived at the house where Farzin lived with his mother and uncle. They accused the family of having links to the British – something which Farzin’s uncle denied. His denials did no good. “They said, ‘we know everything,’” Farzin recalled. “They told us to present my father to them or they would kill us all.”

The police told Farzin’s uncle not to worry – that living in a busy city centre meant the family was sure to be safe. They were wrong. Farzin described how he heard a knock on the door, “and then I hear a great sound of explosion,” he said. “I didn’t know what happened after that.” 

Farzin woke up in hospital to learn both his mother and uncle had been killed. 

“I was asking about mum but no one answered me,” he told Byline Times. “My aunt came and cried and cried. She said your mum is no more and also your uncle.” 

Farzin was just a teenager at the time. The blast injured his legs and he spent a month in hospital. Following the attack, he moved to Kabul with his aunt and cousins. 


The Fall of Kabul

As the Taliban advanced through Afghanistan, Farzin was living with his stepmother, his siblings and half-siblings in Kabul. Having left his military job after five years, his father had remarried and had more children. 

Farzin described how his father was visiting the UK before the fall of Kabul. It soon became clear that, with more and more regions being taken over by the Taliban, danger was heading their way. The family had spent years rebuilding their lives after enduring so much tragedy. Now the men who had killed his mother were threatening Farzin’s safety again. 

“We called dad in the UK and told them we would die, the Taliban would kill us,” Farzin explained. “He told us ‘don’t worry I am coming to get you’. He flew back home. But it was too late. He arrived and then we couldn’t get out of Afghanistan.”

After the Taliban took over Kabul, the UK Government launched Operation Pitting to evacuate British citizens and vulnerable people who had worked with the military or other UK institutions. In the second-largest evacuation of its kind, 15,000 people were transported out of the country. 

Now, Marshall’s revelations allege that people were left behind in part as a consequence of a chaotic response from the FCDO. 

Marshall is clear in his evidence that “it was inevitable that the vast majority of Afghans appealing to the UK for evacuation would be left behind and that some would be killed by the Taliban. This was not a result of problems with the UK’s evacuation effort but an inevitable consequence of the situation in Kabul and the broader decision to complete western withdrawal by 31 August.”

Despite this, Marshall explained how “the process for selecting which Afghan applicants to evacuate was not credible […] In my opinion, these prioritisation decisions were therefore not made in a rational way. I accept there were extremely hard decisions to be made; my concern is that these decisions were made badly.”

His evidence pointed to inadequate staffing, lack of expertise, lack of urgency, and a lack of coordination between the FCDO and the Ministry of Defence, and suggested there was an assumption that all visa-holders would be able to reach the airport. He also alleged that thousands of emails from those seeking assistance went unread.

Due to their links to the British Army, Farzin’s family may well have been eligible for evacuation if they had managed to reach the airport. However, Farzin explained they were too afraid to leave their hiding place. His four siblings and half-siblings are aged between four and ten, “so we couldn’t do that,” he said. Families have described waiting for days in the airport with no food, drink and few toilet facilities. Some people were crushed to death in the panic. It’s understandable then, that the family hoped to access the follow-up resettlement scheme that was promised for vulnerable people, including those who had worked with the British. 

But more than three months after the ACRS was announced, with a promise to provide asylum for 5,000 Afghans this year and a further 20,000 in the coming years, the scheme is not up and running. The FCDO has told people not to apply for visas to leave Afghanistan, instead saying those eligible will be identified and supported to resettle. The Home Office web page for the ACRS simply says: “The scheme is not yet open. Please check this page regularly. Further details will be announced in due course.”

“Our hope is to go somewhere safe and stay somewhere safe,” Farzin told Byline Times. He said the family is in touch with the UK Government, “but they don’t do anything yet. They just say wait and wait and wait.”

When asked what he would like to say to the Government, Farzin is clear: “my dad served five years for the UK and it’s not fair to leave him and his family to be killed.”

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