Dozens of Afghan interpreters who served with the British Army are holding a protest in Parliament Square to demand more protection for desperate translators stranded in Kabul.
The protesters held banners and signs up in front of Parliament on Wednesday as MPs returned to the House of Commons after it was recalled.
Signs they held included images of people gravely injured in Afghanistan, with the caption ‘Protect our loved ones’.
Afghan interpreters are now being hunted Taliban kill squads. One, referred to only as Ahmadzi for his safety, is hiding with his family after as least one assassination attempt.
He was branded a ‘threat’ to UK security by Home Office officials despite serving alongside British Army generals so his visa to the UK was revoked.
Protesters, who are former translators for the British Army, held banners and signs up in front of Parliament on Wednesday as MPs returned to the House of Commons after it was recalled
He told the Stories of Our Times podcast: ‘The only actions left are either to remain in Kabul and get killed by the Taliban, to cross the border to Iran and go there, or to be helped by NATO countries.
‘They have sentenced me to death, and ordered their fighters that I should be shot and killed wherever I am found. Three weeks ago my son was with me when four gunmen tried to kill me but I recognised them and they fled.’
One former interpreter at the demonstration in London today, who only gave his name as Rafi, said: ‘Today we are representing all those employees of the British Government in Afghanistan who have served the British forces.
A protester holds up a large banner with British soldiers that reads: ‘Do not leave anyone behind’
Demonstrators take part in a ‘Save Afghanistan’ protest in Parliament Square today
One former interpreter, who only gave his name as Rafi (pictured), said: ‘Today we are representing all those employees of the British Government in Afghanistan who have served the British forces’
He added: ‘The Taliban will butcher every single one of them if they are left behind’
‘Today, their lives are at a very high risk, them and their families, and our families, they need protection and safety.
‘The Taliban will butcher every single one of them if they are left behind.’
He added: ‘The Afghan nation feels betrayed and let down. They deserved better.
‘The Americans took the rug from under our feet and left the nation with no protection, no safety and under the control of the same terrorists that we started fighting 20 years ago.’
Ahmadzai, speaking to the podcast from the Times and Sunday Times, had been working for Afghan president Ashraf Ghani until Sunday before the politician fled when the Taliban breached Kabul’s defences.
Former British interpreters protesting in Kabul on August 13 before the capital was overrun by the Taliban. Their faces are obscured for security reasons
His position working for some of the British Army’s most senior officers puts him high on the list for retribution, and the Taliban have already searched his home since taking over Kabul.
In June the Home Office announced he would be granted a visa to travel to Britain on August 1, but last week this was revoked because his ‘character, conduct and associations’ were not ‘conducive to the public good’. He cannot appeal.
Today he pleaded: ‘Take me to the UK and put me in prison. Take me to court. If you believe I’m bad, you can sentence me to death.
‘But to leave me behind in Kabul, you are inviting the Taliban to come and kill me. The Taliban won’t give me a chance to speak. They will just shoot.’
Armed Taliban militants in a pick-up truck move through a market in Kabul today after taking over the capital
Charlie Herbert, a former major general who worked alongside Ahmadzai in Kandahar, said it was ‘rubbish’ that he posed a threat to the UK
Charlie Herbert, a former major general who worked alongside Ahmadzai in Kandahar and has testified to his good character, said: ‘You’re telling me this man is a threat to the United Kingdom? Absolute rubbish.
‘He is a dead man walking, there is no doubt that they will kill him as soon as they find him.’
Activists estimate that – when interpreters’ families are included – there are around 1,000 men, women and children who could miss the chance of a deserved new life in Britain and instead be left to the brutal mercy of the Taliban.
Government sources said that a total of around 1,700 ‘former locally employed staff and their families’ have been told they can come to the UK.
Protesters stand in Parliament square holding signs and banners which read, ‘Protect our loved ones,’ ‘Save those who saved your sons in Afghanistan’ and ‘Do not leave anyone behind’
Major Herbert warned that the Prime Minister will have ‘blood on his hands’ if any interpreters are abandoned to their death by Britain.
He said: ‘If any interpreters or their family members are murdered by the Taliban, Boris Johnson, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and the Home Secretary Priti Patel will have their blood on their hands.
‘It is too late now for most interpreters caught in areas controlled by the Taliban. I am getting messages from them and they are heartbroken and terrified. They are hiding for their lives as the Taliban go from house to house trying to find them.’
A separate protest was also held earlier in Parliament Square, called Stop the War.
The campaign group was there demanding that politicians recognise that the war in Afghanistan was a catastrophe and must not be repeated.
A separate protest was also held earlier in Parliament Square, called Stop the War. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attended the protest
Former Afghan interpreters and veterans hold a demonstration in Parliament Square
A large group of protesters huddle together at Parliament Square today demanding that the Government safely return Brits left in Afghanistan
One protester holds up a large poster which reads, ‘Do not leave anyone behind’ at the protest today
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attended the protest, as did his brother Piers, although the pair appeared at different points.
Labour MP Richard Burgon joined Jeremy Corbyn at the protest.
Jeremy Corbyn, an Independent MP, tweeted: ‘Joined @STWuk and other campaigners outside Parliament this morning to demand support for Afghan refugees and no more disastrous wars.’
Later on at Parliament Square, hundreds of Gurkhas are expected to arrive and hold a separate protest.
They are calling for equal pensions for Gurkhas who retired before 1997 but are not eligible for a full UK armed forces pension.
‘Even if the call comes, road blocks may stop us’: Translators tell of their terror as Taliban militants try to block their escape
A former interpreter with UK Special Forces ran the gauntlet of Taliban checkpoints to reach Kabul’s airport yesterday in a desperate attempt to secure a place on a Freedom Flight.
‘There was panic, chaos and confusion at the airport with crowds of people around all five gates,’ Shane says. ‘Some were pushing, others pleading and some just sitting and waiting. There was shouting and crying; some were trying to climb over the gates.
Chaos: Shane awaits his flight to freedom
‘People are afraid and desperate to escape. We are all worried the airport will be cut off by the Taliban, so even if we have a chance for a flight it could be very tough.’
The 34-year-old father-of-five is among those approved for sanctuary in recent days after his case was highlighted by the Mail’s Betrayal Of The Brave campaign.
He was among a dozen translators with a Special Forces’ Task Force based at Camp Juno in Helmand who had been rejected for relocation because they were not employed by the Government.
The decision was reversed and he is now waiting to be told when to fly.
‘Everyone is wanting to get on a plane before the Taliban find us,’ he says. ‘That is why we went to the airport, but the Turkish guards were letting no one through apart from American translators and their families, who had U.S. troops with them.
I asked for British troops, but no one came. It was frustrating. There was a real feeling of fear around us and of suspicion.
‘The Taliban is stopping and searching vehicles, and we have been told they are going from compound to compound, looking for those who worked with the government and Western forces. I have changed my location three times.’
Shane, who worked for three years at the highly sensitive base which ran intelligence operations and Afghan spies — he was once flown to the UK to brief ministers and officials — says: ‘We are all worried that when the call comes to go to the airport, it may not be possible because of road blocks and searches. We are worried, too, that the phone networks or electricity will be down and we will miss the call.’
Remain? ‘It’d be like Hell waiting for their revenge’
The view from his second-floor window in a Kabul suburb was terrifying, Waheed said, as he watched Taliban putting up roadblocks and searching cars.
‘It is worrying as there are many on the roads and they seem to have absolute power, people are very respectful — afraid — so they are answering questions and stepping away from their cars if asked,’ said the 30-year-old former British military interpreter.
Low profile: Waheed is still hopeful he will escape
Waheed, who worked with front-line troops and military spies for three years, is waiting for news of a Freedom Flight with his wife and their two young children.
‘As the day has gone on, there are more Taliban on the streets,’ he told me. ‘Some are not armed but they are all clearly confident and proud of what they are.
‘Some people are greeting them and shaking their hands. I think it is because they are fearful — not because they are really pleased to welcome them.
‘I don’t think there has been any shooting — they seem in absolute control — so the problem for me will be reaching the airport when permission to fly is granted.
‘I am really hopeful that Britain will make this work for us because to remain would be like staying in Hell to wait for their revenge.’
He said social media was ‘alive’ with rumours and stories, saying that government officials were being taken away from their homes.
Some Afghan police and military are now helping the Taliban.
Translators had agreed to keep a low profile, Waheed explained, and await the call ‘to fly’. Some were deleting numbers and pictures from their phones in case they are stopped and searched for anything linking them to the British military.
‘The window for our escape is closing…’
Bashir was anxiously waiting by his telephone yesterday, hoping Britain would finally grant him sanctuary before time runs out.
The 34-year-old worked in Helmand for 14 months, and was wounded in the shoulder by a sniper’s bullet during a daytime operation to capture Taliban targets.
Desperate: Bashir says Kabul is full of fear
He says: ‘Every call, every message I hope is permission to go to the UK.
‘I am desperate to escape. Kabul is full of fear. If I am captured, I will be killed because of my work, and I know the Taliban is searching for us.
‘All my paperwork is ready and with the UK authorities. I served them bravely and loyally, and it is now in their gift to save me and my family.
‘The window for our escape from the Taliban is closing and I do not understand the delay. Why have some been approved and others not?’
Three weeks ago, the father-of-three found a bomb under his car and he claims to have been threatened repeatedly.
‘The fear among us all is very real. People here are nervous — you can feel it,’ he says.
‘Everyone is fearing the worst and wondering if they will live or die.’
Bashir, whose interpreter brother has been approved for relocation, said he moved to Kabul to be ready to ‘escape’ if permission is granted.
He said he first applied for sanctuary three years ago, but did not qualify because he had not been directly employed.