One of the many hundreds of Afghans who was eligible for evacuation to Britain but was unable to board a flight has told of his family’s harrowing two weeks on the run from the Taliban.
Ahmad – not his real name, and whose location cannot be revealed – is a former Afghan government official who also worked for Western-backed human rights groups in the country.
He is regarded as a Taliban target, and his family were offered safe passage out of the country in a Foreign Office letter. Sky News has seen his documents and travel authorisation.
Ahmad, his wife, and young children spent 36 hours trying to enter Kabul airport, but Taliban gunmen prevented them from going any further last Thursday – the day of the ISIS-K bomb attack.
Along with dozens of other Afghan families, he said they were turned back at a checkpoint because they did not have foreign passports or a visa stamp, under what they were told were new instructions from the Americans.
He has moved location 19 times since the Taliban takeover, saying he flees in a burqa when he sees homes being searched nearby, and those who know him have had their homes raided.
Speaking from a safe house, he said his children were scared.
“Whenever we move, over the last 16, 17 days, they always ask: ‘Why are we moving, who is looking for us, why are they looking for us.’ Because they are children (and) they don’t know,” he explained.
“And I am telling them we are playing a hide-and-seek game.
“But they are terrified, they are scared. They can’t sleep at night.”
“Each day that passes by, I thank god for that,” Ahmad added.
“But my planning is hour by hour. I might be alive until the evening, or I might have another day tomorrow.
“If the situation gets worse, if they start harassing my family, my relatives, then I will have no other choice but to give my life instead of my family, to give myself to these people [the Taliban], and whatever they will do they will do.”
Ahmad has sent a number of emails to the UK government, through the address he was contacted on about his evacuation, and called its helpline for Afghans eligible to leave the country.
He has received automated replies saying the evacuation has ended.
One of his emails says: “The Taliban is looking for me and my family… I am requesting you to help me, we have very little time left.”
Ahmad is clear on what will happen if he is found: “They don’t have a jail. Their direction is specific – detain and interrogate you first, or just kill on the spot.”
His only hope is for an arrangement to be made to allow Afghans safe passage out of the country.
“My humble request would be to honour those promises and fast track the negotiation process because the window of hope is closing, the Taliban are getting closer,” he said.
“I don’t know if our lives – those of us who have worked for this republic of Afghanistan, who have worked for democracy, for human rights, who have given sacrifices – does that have any value or not?”
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The UK and international partners are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan.
“We have been clear that the Taliban must allow safe passage for those who want to leave.”