He lives in fear under the Taliban regime. His brother got away with it
One was at work, the other at home the day the Taliban invaded Kabul last year. Within days, the lives of Janagha and Shafiqullah Sarwari would change immeasurably.
“I was very happy that at least one of us, Janagha, made it through,” Shafiqullah, 31, told NBC News in a phone call last month from Kabul, where he said that he lived in constant fear of Afghanistan’s hardline leaders. His brother, meanwhile, is building a new life in the UK.
“On the other hand,” he added. “I had a deep sense of sadness, I was so unlucky.”
Janagha, 38, said that on the morning of August 15, he got up at 6 a.m. sharp at Camp Taipan, a base at Hamid Karzai International Airport, where he worked as a mechanic. Across town, about 10 kilometers from the airport, her younger brother was home and already up for morning prayers.
Within hours, the Taliban had entered the Afghan capital unchallenged, prompting the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, to flee to the United Arab Emirates and accelerating a chaotic scramble by the United States and other Western countries to evacuate their forces. , their diplomatic personnel and eligible Afghans. leave the country.
Shafiqullah said he had also worked at Camp Taipan but was on leave and was unable to reach the base for evacuation. The security company for which he worked as a subcontractor disputes this and claims that he was no longer employed.
“We worked on the same project, in the same place, but I didn’t take advantage of it,” he said.
Their story will resonate with many.
Janagha was among tens of thousands of Afghans evacuated alongside American and allied citizens.
Ten days after the Taliban takeover, he landed at Birmingham Airport in the Midlands of England, with his wife, Hamkima., and their four children, Ahmad Sahil, 14, Marwa, 11, Ahmad Sohail, 9, and Salah, 2.
After months of living in a hotel, in early December the family moved into their own home in Norwich, a small medieval town about 120 miles north of London.
Receiving the news that they would be evacuated left Janagha with mixed feelings, he said in a recent phone call from his new home.
“It was a paradox,” he said, adding that he was “deeply worried that my country would fall into the hands of the Taliban”, but happy because “we would finally be rescued”.
Since April 1, Britain has resettled more than 8,000 Afghans who worked for or alongside the UK, or their family members, according to a UK government spokesperson.
Through a separate scheme, which aims to help vulnerable people, as well as those who uphold values such as democracy and women’s rights, the UK said it was committed to welcoming around 5,000 people this year and up to 20,000 over the next few years. .
“We have undertaken the largest and fastest UK emergency evacuation in recent history, helping over 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan. We will continue to do everything we can to allow those who are eligible for relocation,” the spokesperson said..
Janagha said his family was settling in well and he attended the local mosque where he said people were friendly. His children had just enrolled in local schools, he added.
Challenges include a shortage of Persian speakers and Britain’s gloomy skies that left him yearning for the unobstructed views of Kabul, he said. Above all, he said, he missed his family and hoped that one day they could join him in Britain.
Middle brothers in a family of seven children, Janagha and Shafiqullah grew up in Kabul where their father worked as a driver, while their mother stayed home to raise them.
She filled their home with the aromas of traditional Afghan cuisine, Shafiqullah said.
Both brothers described their childhood as humble but happy, filled with memories of skipping school, playing football and swimming in the Kabul River.
“Back then it wasn’t too dirty, we had very blue, green, very pure water,” Janagha said.
As adults, their sisters married off and the family’s three boys, like so many who came of age after the US-led invasion in 2001, found employment in the huge industry facilitating foreign military presence in the country. By the time that presence collapsed last year, both had worked for foreign troops, Janagha as a mechanic and Shafiqullah in the kitchens.
Then, this summer, their paths diverged radically.
Shafiqullah said during the evacuation in August he was on leave from his job for Houston-based defense contractor KBR after contracting Covid-19. He said that after testing positive, Janagha and others were told to return home as there was no treatment center in the camp. In the weeks that followed, he said, he waited for them to call him back to work.
“After a while they called Janagha back but not me,” he said.
When the evacuations started, he said, his manager told him to be patient, but that he hadn’t heard from the company or the British government since.
A KBR spokesperson said Shafiqullah worked for its contractor, UK firm Global Staffing Solutions, from July 2018 to May 2021.
Shafiqullah and Janagha had contracted Covid in May along with a number of other Afghan workers, the spokesperson said, adding that they had made the decision to leave the camp and in doing so their employment had been terminated. The company closely followed the UK Ministry of Defence’s Covid-19 protocols and procedures, the spokesperson said.
In July, Janagha was reinstated and transferred to the UK due to his work on behalf of KBR, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said Global Staffing Solutions had sent an employment verification letter, also signed by KBR, to Shafiqullah so that he and his family could apply for relocation to the UK or the US.
Shafiqullah said KBR did not tell him that his job was terminated.
But the KBR spokesperson said questions about communication Shafiqullah had with his employer should be directed to Global Staffing Solutions. Global Staffing Solutions could not be reached for comment.
A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defense said contractors were generally not eligible for relocation under the ARAP scheme, but in certain circumstances applicants could have secondary roles which qualified them for relocation . The ministry could not comment on individual cases, the spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, the brothers’ lives remain a world apart.
In Norwich, Janagha’s oldest children go to school, while their cousins, Mohammed and Bilal, miss an education in Kabul as the family continues to move to escape possible Taliban wrath.
Shafiqullah is just one of hundreds of thousands of people whom refugee advocacy groups and humanitarian organizations believe have worked for foreign troops, diplomats, charities or other US-funded projects. or their allies, who remain in Afghanistan and are persecuted.
The State Department declined to comment when asked how many Afghans remained in Afghanistan and had applied for special immigrant visas or other visas to resettle in the United States. Since late July, the United States has hosted some 76,000 Afghan nationals as part of Operation Allies Welcome, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Like so many of his fellow Afghans, Shafiqullah said he struggled to put food on the table and a roof over his children’s heads.
Unemployed and with rent to pay, he said he was selling his possessions, including carpets and his television. More than half of the country urgently needs more food, according to the World Food Programme.
“We are just surviving,” he said. “We have nothing else to sell.”
He implored the British government to process his family’s documents and move them to a place where his children could go to school and where they could live in peace.
“I trust in fate, but I feel that the efforts of human beings also have an effect,” he said. “If the British government considers my case, God willing, I will be in Norwich with Janagha.”