Tuesday, October 26

From the bomb at the airport to crossing the desert: this is how an entire family managed to get out of Afghanistan to Seville

It is just under nine in the evening on Monday, October 11, and the engines of a Hercules plane that has just landed at the airport of the Madrid base of Torrejón de Ardoz. It is an impressive Lockheed C-130, made in the United States and the main transport aircraft for the armed forces in the world. But, despite being conceived as a warplane, in recent weeks it has become part of a peacekeeping force. One of the people coming down the rear ramp of the aircraft knows a lot about that.

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His name is Shirzad Mohammadzai. He is 62 years old and the mask he wears does not cover his undeniable eyes of fatigue after a trip of more than 14 hours, which has arrived after almost two months avoiding the Taliban threat. The photographer of Moncloa You may not know who captured the image, but it shows two soldiers greeting each other and saying goodbye after a mission accomplished. But, behind that photo, there is much more.

Reyes’ tweet

It all started on the afternoon of August 21. The Canal Sur journalist Reyes Calvillo He published a tweet in which he asked for help for the bartender at the bar he goes to from time to time, which is also part of his grandfather’s social liturgy. “Hello, journalists. Unfortunately these are days with very hard stories that come from Afghanistan and today my soul has been broken when I learned of Karwan’s. He asks us to give him a voice, he lives in Seville and, although he is a translator, every day he makes us happy by throwing an excellent Cruzcampo ”.

Karwan is Sliman Shan Mohammadzai, a 30-year-old from Seville who worked in his country, Afghanistan, as an interpreter for the Spanish Army, and has been in Spain since 2013. At the bar, he told Reyes, knowing that he is a journalist, the story of his family, who had just been “visited” by the Taliban to sign a death sentence on their bodies.

Radical Islamists had just taken Kabul, and they quickly set their sights on Karwan’s father, the 62-year-old military man who got off the Hercules at the Torrejón base last night.

Karwan told Reyes that his family contacted him that week to say that they had all been threatened with death, and even his brothers “have had their fingers marked with a marker to warn them that, at least, within a month they They will cut them off, “for which he demanded from the Spanish Government” urgent help to get them out of there as soon as possible. ”But, without contacts, he did not know what to do, until the journalist entered the bar and the light bulb went on.

Not even 24 hours had passed and his face and his story could already be seen in all the media in Spain. Shirzad Mohammadzai was not randomly threatened with death. The Taliban had marked him for having been a general in the Afghan Army and a collaborator with the allied forces for 20 years, so there was no time to lose.

First steps

In the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, August 22, one of the media that had covered the news was called from the Government Delegation in Seville to collect all possible data. An hour later, the following message was transmitted: “The Government is already working on it.”

It was about the military’s family complying with all the instructions that were strictly given. They had to go first thing in the morning to the Kabul airport with a Spanish flag and be seen by the Spanish military. Everything went well until, with the plane already in sight to board, a Taliban recognized the military man, and they were thrown out of the airport.

From that moment, new attempts came, new failures, until on August 26 the Taliban killed about twenty people at one of the airport gates and the allied forces withdrew. Since that moment, the family has been in hiding waiting for a miracle, while the Government continued to make arrangements, with Karwan in Seville unable to communicate with them, because he did not know if he was calling them, he was going to meet a Taliban on the other side of the phone or if I was sending them a message, to read it. Because his parents have always argued before the radicals that their son died, and that version could not be dismantled.

Eight hours without stopping

Many of the steps that have been taken these weeks will never be known, but the fact is that Karwan’s family received very clear instructions last week: they had to get to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. And the option was only one: infamous highway and eight hours without stopping the cars, in which 15 people traveled, including parents, children, wives and children, some of them babies of a few months. And cross the border however they could.

On Saturday mid-morning, Karwan received a message on his phone: “We are safe in a hotel in Islamabad.” The miracle and the thousand defense efforts had paid off. The following message was received at two in the morning, Spanish time, this Monday: “Let’s go to the airport now.” From there, it only remained to wait.

At six in the afternoon on Monday, Karwan received a call from a journalist who confirmed that his family was on the Hercules and that they would arrive in Torrejón around nine at night. So it was.

Only his grandparents have stayed in Afghanistan, but they are safe. Because of their age, the Taliban don’t bother them.

Now, the work of regrouping remains. Possibly, this Wednesday the 15 relatives of the young interpreter arrive in Seville. Several NGOs are already working in the Andalusian capital so that they do not lack anything. They will try to adapt as soon as possible and start working to get ahead. Karwan’s brothers are doctors, and the whole family is willing to give back to Spanish society that their lives have been saved and that their babies can grow up safely next to the Guadalquivir.


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