Maybe Muhammad Y khaled (fictitious names for security reasons) crossed paths at the end of August in the surroundings of the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport. Like tens of thousands of Afghan citizens, they flocked to the compound on the outskirts of the capital, seeking an evacuation on one of the many flights operated by Western countries in the days following the Taliban’s return to power. But Mohammad and Khaled had a sesame. Or at least, they thought so. A letter, with a seal from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperationwhich confirmed that they had the right to be evacuated, for having been collaborators with AECID, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.
“I received the letter on August 23. They told me that I had a scheduled flight between 23 and 24”, remember Muhammad, 60 years oldin a shar-e-naw coffee, a central Kabul street.
He is nervous, and speaks in a low voice. “For me it is a great effort to be here,” he assures Radio Nacional: “Normally I am at home all the time. I don’t want to go out and have to talk with the Taliban.” He is accompanied and encouraged by his 27-year-old son, a fan of FC Barcelona. Together, with the rest of the family, ten people in total, they left for the airport the same day they received the letter.
“Mohammad, 60 years old: “My wife and daughters wore yellow and red veils, it was a sign for the Spanish military”“
“My wife and my daughters wore yellow and red veils, it was a sign for the Spanish military,” he explains in one of the few anecdotes that make him smile. He also relaxes when it comes to remembering his work with the Spanish Cooperation. It was between 2009 and 2012. He carried out projects with AECID and the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. He was then a technical adviser. Now he is unemployed. “Applying for a job in any government office is a risk for us because we have worked with international agencies and embassies,” says Mohammad. “They will not accept us and there may be retaliation.”
““We are at all times, 24 hours a day, waiting to leave the country and go to Spain”“
Behind his glasses, he acknowledges that now he only thinks “of getting out of Afghanistan”: “I hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs keeps its word that it will not leave anyone behind. We are at all times, 24 hours a day, waiting to leave the country and go to Spain.” Mohammad shudders as he recalls waiting near Kabul airport last summer: “We were there for four days. There was nothing to eat or drink, but we stayed. I have a 4-year-old boy who was there. It was very difficult for U.S”.
Khaled’s fear and waiting
khaled didn’t wait that long. His evacuation letter was dated August 26, with a flight scheduled for that day or the next two. He headed for Kabul from Badghis province, where he lived with his wife and his eight children. More than 500 kilometers to stay just a few hours near the airport: “The attack happened [que mató a más de 180 personas en los alrededores del aeropuerto el 26 de agosto], and we were afraid. We decided to go back to Badghís,” explains Khaled.
“Khaled, 56 years old: “I am living alone in Kabul, my family has stayed in Badghís. People there know me, they know that I have worked with Spain”“
With his beard and thick, somewhat graying hair, Khaled looks younger than his 56 years. Engineer, he worked for five years, between 2009 and 2013, with AECID, on infrastructure projects in the province of Badghís. She did not want to stay at his house – “in case they have followed you” -, nor in a cafe. We see you in a flat made available by our translator. “I am living alone in Kabul, my family has stayed in Badghís. People there know me, they know that I have worked with Spain. It is too dangerous for me”, he explains to us.
When he returned from the airport, the Taliban were looking for him. They were behind all the people who had collaborated with international agencies and institutions. “They stopped several people, and they were looking at the houses one by one,” he recalls. “I had to go out in the middle of the night.” He hasn’t been back since. “My family doesn’t have any income. In the last few months, we only had our savings, but not even that anymore. Sometimes there isn’t enough to eat.”
Khaled has come to the appointment with the friend who hosts him in Kabul. He acknowledges being “desperate” at times due to the situation, and asks the Spanish authorities to help him find a solution to get out of Afghanistan: “There are dozens of families of AECID collaborators waiting. And there are countries like Germany, the United Kingdom United States or the United States that are doing it with their collaborators,” says the Afghan engineer. The solution -according to Khaled- is for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation to provide them with a travel document to be able to cross the border, or to evacuate them directly from Kabul. Otherwise, he says, “it is not possible to leave the country.”
““Nobody can get a passport now in Afghanistan““
“Nobody can get a passport now in Afghanistan,” says Khaled. “The new authorities do not give them.” Without resources, without savings and with a large family, they also cannot afford the cost of a visa to go to a neighboring country. From the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they assure Radio Nacional that they are “aware” that there are still cases like those of Khaled and Mohammad, but that “they remain firm in their commitment not to leave anyone behind.” After the two evacuation operations in August and October, for which a total of 2,228 collaborators and their families left, Spain has managed to bring 269 people, according to Foreign Affairs, through several countries neighboring Afghanistan.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.