Rahima waited until late in the evening to return to her family home with his brother to collect clothes and documents. She was fully aware of the dangers they faced, and she hoped the brief visit would go unnoticed.
The Taliban raided and searched the house, looking for Rahima’s husband Ahmed, but he was not there. Rahima didn’t want to say where he was. There was an argument, screaming, and then a shot rang out. One of the fighters opened fire with his Kalashnikov AK-47 and hit Rahima on the head.
Rahima’s brother and some neighbors took her to the nearest hospital. But the same group of Taliban fighters appeared there and ordered medical staff not to treat the 26-year-old woman.
Rahimo was taken unconscious and bleeding profusely from the injury to her sister’s house and then to a private clinic run by a doctor who knew the family. An emergency operation was performed, but she died soon after.
Ahmed was on the wanted list of a prominent high-ranking Taliban official in the west of the country who nurtured hatred towards him and sent people to Kabul to capture or kill him. He heard of their arrival and moved with his wife to another address.
Ahmed, a 42-year-old with a degree in economics, has worked for the UN, the World Bank and a British company that has implemented projects contracted with the UK government in which the Afghan administration has been involved.
Ahmed said he had rejected repeated demands by High Talib Mule for money from infrastructure projects he was working on. Each refusal angered Mulo more and he swore revenge on the ‘angrezzi baccha’ (son of the English) as he was called.
On August 17 last year, two days after Kabul fell to the Taliban, Ahmed requested an evacuation under the ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme with the support of a British company.
He received a reply from the Office of Foreign Affairs and Development (FCDO) stating that his application had been accepted and that “we will do our best to reply to you as soon as possible”. Ahmed heard nothing more.
On August 27, the day after Islamic State carried out a suicide attack at Kabul airport that killed 183 people, he fled to Pakistan, where he now remains.
On December 8 last year, Ahmed received an email from an ARAP worker asking him to send a response he received from the FCDO on August 17 in response to his evacuation request. Ahmed forwarded the email.
Last weekend, he received another email from a case worker saying his original application had been lost and that his case had to be resubmitted. That, he fears, could mean he will be in the back of the line.
“Every day I think about what the Taliban did to my poor wife, how she had to suffer. Maybe she would be alive now if only she could allow treatment at the first hospital. We didn’t think my wife would be in danger. Their quarrel was with me, not with her, ”he said.
“I had to leave my country through a hole in the fence in Pakistan. I had no choice; The mule who wanted to kill me is now a very powerful man.
“My problems with it stem from the work I have done with Western organizations, British organizations. Now, however, I am very worried that they have lost my application. Does that mean I’m behind now? I’m getting desperate. “
In November, the Ministry of the Interior issued new guidelines on those eligible for the ARAP scheme. This month, the interior ministry released the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which, according to humanitarian groups, favors those already in the country over those who have been abandoned.
Ferhana, a 23-year-old student whose family hails from Gereshk and Lashkar Gar in Helmand, has been involved in education and gender equality projects funded by the British Provincial Council and also in Kabul. She applied to join the ARAP scheme in the second week of August and received back an acknowledgment of receipt of the application from London.
She and her friends have been outspoken in their criticism of Islamists and conservative clerics, and her family has been deeply concerned that she could become a target for the Taliban surrounding Kabul, and taking over the capital is almost inevitable.
Three days after the fall of Kabul, Ferhana, two of her friends and a cousin, all women, decided to try an evacuation flight for fear that turbulence at the airport would cause a sudden end to air travel.
Friends managed to get through and after a 36-hour wait on the road in front of the airport boarded planes, one to Germany and the other to the US.
The car in which Ferhana and her cousins were, however, was stopped at a checkpoint of the Haqqani network, an Islamist group that is binding on the Taliban, and turned back. They tried again after US President Joe Biden announced he would not extend the evacuation deadline. But that was on the day of the attack on Isis Airport and in the chaotic violence of the explosion it became impossible to get through.
Ferhana says her inquiries about her ARAP status have led to the same standard response from London: “Your case is currently under review … due to the amount of applications we receive, we will unfortunately not be able to respond to individual emails asking for help. under ARAP.
Ferhana and her family moved to a house in another Kabul district for security reasons. After a few days, she tried to return to university studies, but the Taliban imposed a ban on education for girls over the age of 12, a ban that remains in effect.
Ferhana began attending regular protests by women demanding the right to education and work.
“My parents were very worried about joining [the demonstrations] and they became more concerned when the Taliban hit me a few times. But they also beat others; we decided we had to keep trying to make our voice heard, ”Ferhana said.
“Then I started receiving threats on social media. We heard from neighbors in our former home that the Taliban had gone there to look. They said I had sold myself to unbelievers and that I needed to be taught. They thought one of the neighbors was lying when he said he didn’t know where I was, and they beat him so badly that he ended up in the hospital.
Two weeks ago, the family heard that Ferhana’s uncle, who had previously worked in Governor Helmand’s office, had been detained by the Taliban in Lashkar Gar and disappeared. His wife and children were told he had been killed.
Ferhana now stays at home and is very afraid of the future. She thought, “Americans and Britons have encouraged women to get an education, to get a job, to try to achieve equality. The program I was working on in Helmand, especially gender issues, was very difficult in such a conservative society and we faced a lot of opposition. However, we continued to do so because it was important. “
“Now we are left to the Taliban. We feel hurt and disappointed. I hope something happens with ARAP, but I get the same answer every time, so I don’t know if anything will be done. Maybe now they just want to forget us.”
Zabibullah worked for the Afghan Ministry of Mining and Oil in a job funded by Dfid through a British company. His work focused on stopping illegal mining — a lucrative source of income for the Taliban and criminal gangs.
“The first messages I got from the Taliban asked me why I work for foreigners? I was asked to stop engaging in illegal mining, saying it was none of my business, and when I refused, threats began, ”he recalls.
Since the fall of Kabul, the Taliban have repeatedly pledged not to retaliate against opponents or those who worked for the former government.
Zabibullah decided to go to the ministry and see if he could continue his work. “Some colleagues heard and called me to warn me not to go. They said my name was on the list of Taliban executions and that I would not survive if I returned, ”he said.
Zabibullah, 31, moved into his parents’ home with his wife and young son. He applied for ARAP along with seven others who also work for a British company contracted to the UK government, but there was no response.
“The others at least got the answers. So I don’t know what happened. I’ve emailed ARAP people at least twenty times, but I get the same standard response. I know that the ACRS scheme has been published, but it does not help us at all, ”he said.
“I can’t work now and the situation is very bad with a lack of food and medicine. We had no idea this was going to happen. I feel betrayed, the project we were working on had a direct impact on the Taliban, so it’s no surprise that we want to get revenge on the people associated with it. The British government certainly knows what we are facing. “
A British government spokesman said: “The United Kingdom is taking the lead in the international response to support endangered Afghan citizens and we continue to do everything in our power to help them safely. ACRS provides up to 20,000 women, children and others at risk with a safe and legal resettlement route in the UK. This includes individuals who have supported the efforts of the United Kingdom and the international community in Afghanistan, including those British Council practitioners who are most at risk.
“The Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme remains open and has already helped 7,000 Afghans safe in the UK. We continue to process applications as soon as possible and support all those who have been found eligible for their work for the UK Government. “
* The names of Afghan citizens in this article have been changed for security reasons