Afghan interpreters still waiting for France to evacuate them from Kabul

As France evacuates its citizens from Kabul, many Afghan translators who worked for the French embassy or army still do not know if they will be able to leave Afghanistan. Translators feel particularly threatened by the return of the Taliban, for fear of being seen as traitors for helping foreign powers.

Evacuation flights from Kabul resumed on August 17, 2021 after scenes of chaos unfolded at the airport throughout the day. People had invaded the runway and clung to US military planes in a desperate attempt to get out of Afghanistan. A first French evacuation flight left Kabul on Tuesday night. The next day, August 18, a second flight headed to the French military base in Abu Dhabi, carrying 216 people, 184 of whom were Afghans.

An association representing former Afghan interpreters for the French army has compiled a list of 170 Afghans who had worked with French forces that were still trapped in Afghanistan. According to attorney Magali Guadalupe Miranda, none of these 170 people were on the August 18 flight.

Près de 200 Afghans qui ont travaillé pour la France ou qui sont menacés viennent d’être evacués de Kaboul. Ainsi that des Français et des ressortissants étrangers. We are armed, policiers et équipes diplomatiques who organize sensitive operations, merci. Continue. pic.twitter.com/xHSreTLOLI

– Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 18, 2021 French President Emmanuel Macron posted a photo of the evacuation of French and Afghan citizens from Kabul on Twitter.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly promised that Afghan auxiliaries working for the French army and the embassy in Afghanistan would also be evacuated, on August 16. “The French priority is to evacuate its nationals, evacuate the [Afghan] personnel who have provided essential services to our country helping us on a daily basis, ”said Parly.

Many translators, drivers, cooks and other former employees of the French forces in Afghanistan are still waiting to know whether or not they can be evacuated. About 800 Afghans employed by the French military have been brought to France in recent years, according to President Emmanuel Macron. At least 100 are still in Kabul. One of them told the JowharObservers team about the uncertainty and anxiety that he and his colleagues are experiencing while waiting.

‘We support the French army in a difficult time […] Now we ask you to help us’

Zacharia (not her real name) worked as an interpreter for the French army for seven years, helping the military to train the Afghan national army until the French forces withdrew in 2014. Our team was able to consult documents showing that she was working with the French armed forces. .

Zacharia has tried to contact the embassy several times to obtain a visa and be evacuated to France, but without success.

The embassy has not responded to my messages or emails. I saw Emmanuel Macron’s post saying that 200 Afghans working with the French have been evacuated, but none of my colleagues in Kabul have received an email from the embassy.

Since the Taliban arrived three days ago, I have been hiding at home. I can’t go to the main gate of the embassy because the Taliban are in town. They told me to go directly to the airport, but how can I do it? The Taliban do not allow anyone to enter the airport unless they have documents authorizing them to leave.

Around 600 members of the Afghan army have been deployed to secure the airport. The Taliban have also established checkpoints in the city.

I don’t know what will happen to us in Afghanistan. I am married, I have four children. I am worried about myself, but also about my family. Our work was not hidden from people. They will tell the Taliban that I worked for the army, everyone knows that.

This morning my friend who lives far from Kabul told me that the Taliban entered his neighbor’s house to look for someone. People who have worked with foreigners, police, army, intelligence agents … everyone is afraid. We have no guarantee that we will be protected.

I sent my documents to the embassy twice, in 2015 and 2016. My visa application was rejected for no reason. I even sent my documents last year to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, but got no response. I have my contracts, my letters of recommendation, I am still in contact with my bosses, but nothing works.

This is the last chance for us. If France does not protect us, tomorrow the Taliban will kill all the interpreters. I will not leave my house. If the Taliban come, let me find myself at home and kill myself here. There is no chance for me, this is the last hope for my family. When the Taliban arrived, I applied for visas for Pakistan and India, but Afghans have no way out of the country.

We support the French army at a difficult time. When they weren’t used to Afghanistan, we helped them with their mission. Now, we ask you to help us and we hope that you will take our requests seriously.

Other Afghan aides went to wait outside the embassy gates in hopes of being evacuated, as seen in this photo sent to us by a former translator.

Photo taken by our observer in Kabul on August 18, 2021. © Observers

‘The translators have been trying to leave since 2013’

The JowharObservers team contacted Adel Abdul Raziq, President of the Association of Afghan Interpreters and Auxiliaries of the French Army. He worked as an interpreter for the French army from 2001 to 2014, and has lived in France since 2016. He works from Paris to ensure the evacuation of Zacharia and other former colleagues who want to leave Afghanistan.

Many of the former interpreters of the French army stay at home. They are afraid of the Taliban because just a few weeks ago we lost one of our comrades [Editor’s note: Abdul Basir, a former cook for the French forces]. He was assassinated by the Taliban, despite their promise of an amnesty for people working with the allied forces.

France announced on Monday that it will repatriate all its citizens and all Afghan auxiliaries, but we have had no news. So far, the French embassy has not contacted any of my former colleagues about evacuation plans.

I was an interpreter from 2001 to 2014, when the French left Afghanistan. I applied for a French visa at the time, but my initial application was rejected. We held several demonstrations in front of the French Embassy asking for a relocation plan. We finally got visas. The interpreters have been trying to get out since 2013. There have been several waves of departures, but every two to three months there is a stop.

In June 2021, Abdul Basir, 34, a former cook for French forces, was found dead in the central province of Wardak. The French embassy in Kabul had rejected his visa applications three times, according to the Figaro newspaper.

>> Read more on The Observers: Visas Denied, Afghans Who Translated French Army Fear for Their Lives

Attorney Magali Guadelupe Miranda is coordinating a team of lawyers assisting interpreters and other locally recruited personnel working for the French Army in Afghanistan (locally employed personnel, or “LES”, known in French as “PCRL”, civilian recruitment personnel local).

Together with the Association of Afghan Interpreters and Assistants and journalist Quentin Müller, he has compiled a list of 170 Afghans who worked with French forces and want to leave Afghanistan. She told the JowharObservers team that they benefit from special protections under French law.

This list includes all the people who worked for the French state in Afghanistan. These people have the right to protection when they are in danger because of their mission. As far as we know, none of the auxiliaries on our list have been evacuated.

These evacuations are being organized at the last minute, when they should have been happening the whole time. It was obvious that the Taliban were going to retake the country. It was a foregone conclusion!

It’s now or never. We are ready and waiting to do whatever it takes to help the embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But we need clear instructions to pass on to the Afghan auxiliaries and a guarantee that they will not be abandoned.

@MGM_Avocat et moi même avons établi une liste d’anciens auxiliaires afghans. Cette lists eté établie sur des preuves concrètes (contracts de travail avec l’armée FR). Nous sommes ready to communicate aux affaires étrangères sur place. Il suffit de demander.

– Quentin M. (@MllerQuentin) August 16, 2021 French lawyer Magali Guadalupe Miranda and journalist Quentin Müller have compiled a list of 170 Afghans who worked for the French army in Afghanistan. They say they sent the list to the French Embassy in Kabul and the Foreign Ministry in Paris, in the hope that France will evacuate them and their families.

France had troops in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech on August 16, 2021 that more than 600 Afghan employees who had worked with French forces had settled in France in recent years.

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