‘I will be the first to be taken away by the Taliban,’ says fugitive diplomat – 17/08/21 – World

Last Saturday morning (14), Mohammed Salem Wadhat arrived at work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul. He thought there was something strange, and he knew what.

“There was no one in the offices. I knew it was time to leave. My mother had told me a month earlier to do this because the Taliban was coming,” says the 39-year-old Afghan, all living under some kind of war.

There is a triple target drawn on it. First, it is a Tajik ethnicity, a rival group of the Pashtun Taliban. Second, he worked for years as an interpreter for journalists and for the Spanish detachment of the NATO (Western Military Alliance) force in Afghanistan.

Third, it is a diplomat specializing in government intelligence who was to be ousted on Sunday (15). “I can’t go home while the Taliban are there. I don’t believe in amnesty. They are savages,” he said on a bulletin board and audio.

His wife and three young children had been in Canada for some time, so he decided to act quickly. Last week, as the Taliban steamroller took province after province, he asked a colleague for a regular passport.

“If I tried to leave the country with my diplomatic passport, I might have a problem,” said the one who worked in the 2009 presidential elections with Folha, when he narrowly escaped with the announcement of a attack by the same Taliban.

He speaks English and perfect Spanish, acquired after years of study in Madrid and later as Second Secretary at the Embassy of Afghanistan in the city. This led him to be an interpreter and has helped put him in danger today.

The biggest problem would be the plane ticket. Based on the ministry’s contacts, he got one at a price four times the usual US $ 200 (just over R $ 1,000) for the just over five hours of covered flight on the route. from Istanbul.

In a country where a well-paid public servant does not earn more than double, this was a prohibitive expense. “There was no way to take my mom or my siblings and brothers. With my profile, I would be the first to be taken [pelo Taleban] in the family, I had no doubts, ”she said, crying.

His departure was turned upside down, because the crowd who had decided to flee Kabul were already gathered when he finally left, on one of the last commercial flights to leave the capital before the entry of the Taliban, Sunday at 8.40 a.m. (15) .

On his arrival in the Turkish capital, he took out his diplomatic passport, which exempted him from a visa which he could never obtain: the embassies in Kabul had either been closed or work reduced to a minimum for a long time. week.

“Three hours after my boarding, the president [Ashraf Ghani] I was already out of the country, “he says, staying in a hotel in Istanbul and can’t stop to think about his next steps.

He has more immediate concerns. Monday (16), he had the last contact with his family, by phone. “They said the Taliban were already looking for interpreters in every neighborhood, and that’s why my mother decided to leave town. I don’t know where my brothers and her are, ”he said.

The pledges of moderation from the group that ruled Afghanistan in a violent and obscurantist manner from 1996 to 2001, when it was expelled by the post-9/11 US invasion, do not convince Wadhat.

“Going back would be going back to a hell that I thought was over. The Taliban always say they won’t do anything, but they can’t be trusted. They can kill anyone in the streets and no one will take responsibility for it. responsibility, ”he said. noted.

Videos posted on the Internet showing the Taliban arresting civilians in the streets of Kabul appear to bear witness to Wadhat’s fear.

He has lost hope and finds himself isolated. “I was born with Soviet troops, I was 18 when the Taliban came. At 22 I saw the Americans attacking and now the Taliban again. Life is hell,” he says. .

“When you see these people falling from the sky, grabbing an American plane, you know the people don’t want the Taliban in power,” he said of Monday’s scenes in the Afghan capital.

By counting the money, he now hopes for a way to find his wife and children, but also his family who have now disappeared near Kabul. From there, to rebuild life abroad, but his event horizon still does not envisage all of this.

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