Afghan interpreters: 'No life for us here'

Up to 600 Afghan interpreters who worked alongside British troops are to be given the right to live in the UK, government sources have confirmed.

Two former interpreters for British troops in Helmand province describe constant threats from the Taliban and their hopes to leave Afghanistan.

Ahmad, student, Kabul

Image caption Foreign troops are due to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014

I was an interpreter for the British forces in 2006 in Helmand. I was based in Camp Bastion and I took part in some serious fighting in Sangin district.

I had to leave that job after nine months because my father was getting threats from the Taliban, who told him that if he didn't pull me out of Helmand, they'd kill my family.

They also threw hand grenades at our house. The danger became even more real when one of my colleagues was captured, held for months and killed by the Taliban. They returned his body to his family in exchange for ransom.

I had to return home. Then I worked as a communications officer for ISAF in Kandahar. That lasted 11 months.

I got a letter one day warning me that because of the job I am doing - of being an informant and helping capture Taliban fighters - the Taliban have decided to kill me. They also got hold of my telephone number and kept sending me threatening messages.

I knew I was constantly followed. One day two men tried to abduct me, but I managed to escape. I had learnt a trick or two from the army. I shared my concern with the ISAF, but they didn't do anything to help.

I was extremely scared and realised there's no life for me in Kandahar. I moved to Kabul where I worked as a journalist for a TV station for a while. Now I study political science at university.

My family is still in Kandahar, but I can't be with them. I return every six months for a few days; it's too dangerous to stay longer.

I would be very interested in applying for a UK visa and leaving Afghanistan. You hear about target killings every day, so I have no hope the situation will improve.

Mansoor, government employee, Kabul

I worked with British forces in Helmand for two years from 2008. I have been out on lots of military operations killing the bad guys in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.

I liked my job but I had to quit because my family received threats from the Taliban. Everyone who has worked as an interpreter for foreign armed forces has received such threats.

I now live in Kabul with my family. We are still getting threats every few months.

Once our house was even targeted - there were men hanging around and trying to place mines.

Our family house is in a village outside Kabul but we can't go there, so the house stands empty. Security there is very bad, everyone knows us and what we do and it's almost certain that if we were to go, we'd be captured by the Taliban.

If they catch me, they'll kill me. If they get a member of my family, they'll want to exchange them for me.

Although Kabul is much safer, we still wouldn't go out at night. It is too dangerous and we are scared.

I read the news today that interpreters for the British forces would be given UK visas. I am very pleased about it and I will definitely apply.

They are also offering another alternative - financial support to study in Afghanistan, but I don't think anyone in my situation would be remotely interested.

What's the benefit of education if something much more important is missing - the possibility to have normal, peaceful life.

Besides, it would be great to study in the UK.

Interviews by Krassimira Twigg

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