“They ask us for calm, but it is not easy to be calm with the Taliban in the streets, we have received death threats and we have to leave as soon as possible,” he pleads. Mohamed Sadiq Atif while displaying the last message sent by the Spanish authorities to your mobile phone. He is one of the hundreds of Afghans who collaborated with Spain and who remained on the ground after the chaotic evacuation that the international forces launched after the taking of Acceptance by the Islamists. Communication is always by WhatsApp or email and the last message is from august 26, the day of the brutal explosion at Abbey’s gate at the international airport. To the
less 183 people died after this suicide attack by the local arm of the jihadist group Daesh (Islamic State). “Since then nothing, we are still waiting for a saving call, I hope they have not forgotten us”, laments this professional from the agricultural sector of Qala-i-Nao, who worked from 2009 to 2013 with the Spanish Agency for Cooperation and Development (AECID) in the province of Badghis, the former ‘Spanish province’.
After the arrival of the Islamists to Qala-i-Nao, Mohamed, his two wives and their nine children traveled to Kabul as fast as they could. Their names were on the evacuation lists, but they never passed the controls. “We spent three nights at the airport, until we decided to leave because it was very dangerous,” recalls Mohamed, who now lives with the whole family in a small apartment in the center of Kabul. Most of the families that collaborated with Spain and fled with him from Badghis also stayed on the ground and now, tired of waiting for the call, they have decided to return to Herat, west of the country.
150 families still remain
“So far 36 families of AECID workers have left, approximately 175 people, but 150 families remain in Afghanistan, about 800 people. Our goal is to get them out of there as soon as possible and the Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, has promised to make this happen ”, comments Ignacio Álvaro, a former AECID worker in Qala-i-Nao and Kabul, who along with other former colleagues is trying to help his former collaborators on the ground. The Spanish Armed Forces managed to evacuate 1,900 Afghan aid workers and relatives, from Spain and other countries, the European Union, the UN, NATO and the staff of the Spanish embassy in Kabul. A great effort in such a short time, but insufficient, as has happened in other countries.
Mohamed cannot return to Qala-i-Nao “because our life is in danger. The Taliban called us to ask us to come back, but they cannot be trusted, they will not forgive those of us who work with their enemies. His crime was collaborating in the training of farmers, teaching in schools, supporting programs for the integration of women in the world of work … «The humanitarian work in Spain was a success, but in just a few days everything has been destroyed, the schools closed and women are locked at home again, “he says helplessly. His children surround him, barely leaving the room in which they live and playing in a small patio covered with grape leaves. They are afraid to go out, to meet the Taliban, that someone recognize them and give them away. They are terrified.
“Hidden” in a rental apartment
In another area of Kabul, far from the center, the doctor Mohamed Zahir, his wife and two children share the same terror as Mohamed’s family. This forty-year-old doctor worked with AECID from 2006 to 2009 as a supervisor of hospitals and other health projects. They were seven years of intense work throughout the province of Badghis in which “we got to start up seven clinics”, he recalls with nostalgia. When the Emirate arrived, he did not hesitate to request evacuation, he sold his apartment in Kabul and went to the airport, but from the first moment “it struck me that most AECID workers never got on airplanes.”
He thinks that Spain is working to resolve the situation as soon as possible and dreams of continuing to work as a doctor, but until that moment arrives «we are hiding in a rented apartment, we leave the house the essentials because you cannot trust the Taliban, I I know them well because I finished my studies during the first ’emirate’. You can’t take his word for it.
In his case, the last message from the Spanish authorities was received shortly before the attack at the airport. “They asked me to calm down and said that they were doing everything possible to evacuate us. I take his word for it, but weeks go by and we are still here, under the control of the Taliban. So it’s difficult to be calm, why don’t they do something now? ”He wonders, unable to hide his nerves.
Kabul airport has resumed activity and the Taliban allowed the departure of the first international flight operating since the US withdrawal. About 200 people, including US citizens, were cleared to leave Afghanistan on this flight to Doha. “We heard about the flight of Qatar Airways, but only Americans go there, we don’t have much hope in that way, “Dr. Zahir replies when he is told about this new door that is being opened to leave the country.
These Afghans were a key part of the work carried out by Spain in this country during those years in which the fiction was maintained that a democratic Afghanistan could succeed. That fiction vanished as soon as the Taliban reinstated the ’emirate’, but thousands and thousands of collaborators remain pending a call for salvation. Among them are these 150 families of AECID employees, the true backbone of humanitarian work. Now they are the ones who need help because they live under threat, and they need that help right now.