A former Afghan interpreter has described how he ignored a Taliban demand to quit his job with British forces, so the “killing machines” murdered his brother.
The 35-year-old, who has just arrived on a rescue flight from Afghanistan to the UK with his family, said he was also attacked in a separate ambush and had to fight for his life.
While grateful to have been flown to safety, he urged Boris Johnson to bring everyone who worked for Britain out of his country or else they too will be hunted down by the Taliban.
“I request the British government, please do not leave the people who worked with you, do not leave them behind because if the animals, the killing machines, come to Kabul they will kill all of them,” said the former interpreter, who gave his name as “H” to protect his identity.
He and a woman who worked for the British Council in Kabul were the first people the Ministry of Defence has granted journalists permission to interview on camera, from a group of more than 1,000 former interpreters and other staff – as well as their families – who have arrived in the UK on a series of secret flights from Kabul over the last few weeks.
Many of them were offered the chance to start a new life in Britain under a more generous resettlement programme approved by the government.
It was drawn up because of growing fears about the peril they face at home from Taliban militants who regard anyone that worked for the UK and other foreign forces as a traitor.
The woman, who gave her name as Tamkin, 28, was one of those who benefitted from the new scheme, along with her husband and their three young children.
“They may get a better education in the UK and also live in a stable society and prosperous and peaceful society, which we haven’t expected in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul,” she said in an interview at a location Sky News agreed not to disclose for security reasons.
Tamkin has worked for the British Council since 2012.
It was a job she loved until two years ago when she received a threatening phone call and a letter from the Taliban.
She recalled the warnings: “If you do not leave your job, we are going to kill you or kill one of your family members.”
Asked how this made her feel, the young mother said: “I would say I’m speechless to describe this fear, the situation of always living with fear, always knowing that you will be attacked, you will be targeted at any time.”
The same was true for H, only for him, the fear became a reality.
He started work as an interpreter with British forces in southern Afghanistan in 2011.
Soon afterwards he received a threat from the Taliban telling him to ditch his job.
H said he did not think he or his family were genuinely in danger but in 2013, the Taliban came to his brother’s house and stabbed him to death as punishment for H not quitting.
“That was a very, very, very tough day when I heard the news about my brother,” he said.
After the murder, the British military allowed H to move to Kabul to work for British troops based in the capital because he hoped that would be safer.
But months later, a car pulled up next to him as he was walking in the street.
He recalled that one person in the car said: “It is him.”
Then someone stepped out of the car and punched him in the face.
“They broke my nose”.
The men started beating H and one drew a knife.
He managed to fight back and yelled for help. His remaining brothers, who were nearby, heard his cries and rescued him.
Asked whether he thought the gang had intended to kill him, the former interpreter said: “Of course they wanted to.”
H went to the British military for help following the murder of his brother and the attack.
But instead of being flown out of the country immediately he was given tips on changing his route to work and advised to move house every six months to a year.
It was only in late 2020 – six years later, with the Taliban resurgent and the Afghan government faltering – that the former interpreter was accepted onto the UK government resettlement scheme.
Boarding the plane late last month, he said he felt split emotions.
“That was the happiest day of my life to see [Britain] and that was the saddest day of my life because I was leaving my family [his parents and siblings] behind.”
His ambition now is to join the British armed forces and perhaps one day return to Afghanistan to fight “shoulder to shoulder” with them against the Taliban, he said.