Afghan war hero: Moment my wife said ‘Flee for your life!’ and I began dangerous escape to UK
The Afghan war hero threatened with deportation to Rwanda has told how his wife begged him to flee and leave her behind while he made his perilous journey across five countries to reach the UK.
The pilot, who served with distinction alongside British forces, spent months travelling by car, truck and boat to get to Europe, paying thousands of pounds to smugglers. His only possessions were his flight documents, proving his identity and the brave military career he had fought.
He is now facing rejection by the Home Office after arriving in Britain on a small boat because there was no safe and legal route to escape the Taliban.
The airman has appealed directly to Rishi Sunak and his cause has been backed by leading military figures and politicians including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who called his plight a ‘disgrace’.
The pilot, who is not named in order to protect his young family still in Afghanistan, said he was speaking out on their behalf: “All this that I am doing – I am doing it for them.”
In an interview with The Independent, the Afghan Air Force pilot told how:
The Independent has launched a petition calling for the UK to support Afghan war heroes who served alongside Britain
Praised by his coalition forces supervisor as a “patriot to his nation”, the pilot says he was forced into hiding when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021.
During the chaos of the Kabul evacuation, he and other members of his squadron were left behind. Recounting the fight against the Taliban, he described his final mission providing air cover for the Afghan army who were defending bases.
“I was on a mission for around a week protecting some of the army bases in a region that was under Taliban attack,” he said. “It was our role to go in and support them with air defence.
“Everyone knew that one day the American and British armies would leave as they had supported us for a long time. But when the withdrawal came, our territorial leaders failed us.”
Describing his work with the coalition troops leading up to the withdrawal, the veteran recounted: “Mostly we flew at night. The British would plan special missions and they would use the Afghan Special Force and the Afghan Air Force.
“The missions were supported by the British and would mainly involve fighting against drug production that was helping to fund the terrorist groups. My responsibility was supporting the ground force and helping them evacuate.”
In the days leading up to the fall of Kabul, the airman hoped Afghanistan’s leaders would reach a solution. When a friend called him on August 15 and told him he needed to go to the airport, he didn’t take the warning seriously. Only an hour later, when the friend called again, did the airman realise what was happening.
By that time the streets were packed with cars as people desperately tried to flee and he had missed his chance. The months that followed were fraught with fear and threatening phone calls from unknown numbers as the Taliban sought revenge on anyone who had served the fallen government.
Address and telephone numbers of Afghan Air Force pilots had been left in their offices for the Taliban to find. After months waiting for help and living in hiding, he made the decision to flee to Iran with his wife.
“There wasn’t any specific safe or legal route or some specific website for us to use. It was impossible in Afghanistan, it is completely impossible.
“Fortunately, we still had our passports and we were able to pay some smugglers to get an Iranian visa for us.
“We had a three-month visa in Iran and after two and a half months we went to the immigration police to try and get it updated. When we explained our situation, the soldier’s attitude was very bad.