His tattered mattress lies on a baked mud floor in his tight hiding place. Bombings can be heard outside the window as the streets of Kabul are repeatedly attacked by the Taliban and the Islamic State.
But that's not the only thing that prevents Waheed Dullah from sleeping. Rather, it is two Arabic words that haunt him the most: "Allahu Akbar" – "God is Greater", a phrase kidnapped by jihadists and used by the former interpreter of the British Army in the seconds before the Taliban launched on the Patrol radio would hear bloody attacks.
Those crucial seconds were just enough time for Waheed to warn his British brigade in the Brigade Reconnaissance Force to touch the ground before bullets sprayed over his head.
The elite unit operated in the most dangerous areas of the Helmand province. Waheed, then only 19 years old, was always by her side.
"I was told I saved a lot of lives," Waheed says. The 29-year-old speaks on a crackling telephone line from the Afghan capital, where he lives with his wife and two children Naveed (four) and Muska (18 months).
It was this unwavering loyalty of Waheed and many other Afghan interpreters to British troops, whose stories were told as part of the Daily Mail's award-winning campaign "Betrayal of the Brave" that prompted former Secretary of Defense Gavin Williamson to promise them protection in Britain.
In June 2018, Mr. Williamson said: “You have served our nation with dazzling decorations. They stood shoulder to shoulder with our troops on the battlefield and showed unwavering courage in performing tasks that were fraught with great difficulties and dangers. And we will do the right thing to honor their extraordinary service. "
In the comments praised by this newspaper, he promised that around 50 interpreters who had served alongside British soldiers on the Helmand front could receive visas as part of new qualification measures and bring their wives and children with them.
Those who had long worked to ensure that all army interpreters were given a safe home in Britain – as were those from the Iraq conflict – considered this to be a start.
Another Latif interpreter is pictured on top of a British Chinook. & # 39; I can't work. I can not go. We live in one room every day, ”says Latif. "It's because of my work for the British and it's my family that is being punished."
For Waheed and his wife Mashita, 25, it was an announcement they had prayed for.
But these hopes have failed. More than two years later, only two interpreters came to the UK under the new rules.
Defense Ministry insiders accuse officials of over-qualifying qualifications.
Simon Diggins, a former British colonel who works for Afghan interpreters, recently wrote to the ministers and chief of defense, exploding "indescribable delays" that had put interpreters' lives on hold. His letter remained unanswered.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who has been in his post for a year, has promised to go back to politics and will meet Interior Minister Priti Patel earlier this week to discuss the issue. Sources said it was a matter "close to their hearts and both determined to find a solution."
Mr Wallace should take the issue “very seriously” and broaden the criteria so that more Afghan interpreters can come to the UK.
Although this is welcome news, after so long a time interpreters certainly deserve real and quick action, not just words.
There is no other way to compare their treatment with that of a British overseas passport holder in Hong Kong, who was given the opportunity to settle in Britain after China imposed a new national security law on the former British territory.
The number of Hong Kong-qualified residents is around three million, while only a few hundred Afghan interpreters are prevented from coming to Britain, despite having worked loyally with the British armed forces for more than a year. Couldn't they be offered equal treatment?
Mr Diggins, also a former military attache at the British Embassy in Kabul, speaks to many of his generation of Afghan veterans when he says: “I am ashamed of the way we treated the interpreters. Because without their help under the most difficult and unsolvable conditions we could not have done our job. "
There is no doubt that the plight of abandoned interpreters has moved many thousands. A petition on her treatment supported by the Daily Mail has been signed by more than 178,000 people, including former generals, war heroes, and politicians.
But in Kabul, Waheed, tired of hiding from the Taliban, is deeply depressed by many failed promises.
He wasn't just a backroom boy for the army. He was right in the middle of it and worked with military spies and front troops during his three-year period from 2010 to 2013.
He served in the Electronic Warfare Squadron Intelligence Unit, which was affiliated with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force – practically a "fire magnet" that penetrates into areas and deals with the enemy. The unit would monitor Taliban communications and help destroy the enemy's plans and movements.
"We were at patrol bases and checkpoints to monitor Taliban positions, locate their hideouts, and neutralize plans to harm our armed forces," Waheed recalls. "I would go to the most dangerous areas of the insurgents and tell the officers about Taliban plans, tactics, and strategies, as well as the locations of hidden bombs."
Before joining the military, he studied and taught English at a high school and translated documents from English to Pashto.
Waheed's father was shot dead by the Taliban in 2005 for helping US intelligence in Kunar province. According to Waheed, his father's high profile has also made Waheed a higher priority target for armed men.
Death threats were served on him through an uncle and other relatives, while further threats were made to punish him as an "incredulous spy" for "helping to take the lives of Islamic brothers".
Imagine his shock when his army chief informed him in July 2013 that his contract had been canceled. A decision was made for his own safety after the Afghan authorities announced that they had information that he was being hunted.
Under the old interpreter directive, those who worked on the Helmand front after December 2012 were entitled to a layoff package, including the possibility of protection in the UK. So far, this has enabled 445 interpreters – plus some family members – to come to the UK.
Waheed said he asked for it, but was told that he was ineligible – although his case was heavily supported by British officers he worked with – because his contract ended rather than was released.
The Williamson policy extended the waiting period to those who had spent at least a year in the UK armed forces in 2006. However, it only included interpreters who were fired, not those who were forced to quit due to death threats or contracts, which expired.
In fact, the fine print of the directive even excludes men like 36-year-old Ricky (his military nickname), Britain's longest-serving translator, who spent 16 years alongside British troops and survived Taliban ambush outside his home in Kabul.
Why was he denied safe haven? Because he has not served in Helmand for a year – another “requirement” of the system. Instead, he worked for British forces mainly outside of Kabul and translated for senior officers, UK political leaders and diplomats. He was threatened, attacked and is determined to leave.
Even those interpreters who made it to the UK according to the original scheme and who were promised by the Home Office that their wives and children could join them are still waiting for their loved ones more than a year later.
Waheed says that he is unable to work now because he fears he will be identified by the Taliban and is therefore in debt. The family survives by selling his wife's jewelry.
He says: “My profile is known to the Taliban and they have many spies in this city. I was told that I am not allowed to come to the UK under current guidelines. I would ask the government to rethink this, otherwise they have the blood of translators in their hands. "
He and his family live in a cramped two-room apartment in the Afghan capital, a city that is repeatedly attacked by both the Taliban and the Islamic State – the roof is about to collapse and he cannot afford to repair it .
“It is often dangerous to go out. People could point out that I worked for the unbelievers or say my wife was married to a spy. The fear will only go away if we can escape Afghanistan.
"It is only a matter of time before the Taliban or maybe ISIS find me and try to kill me. You can hurt my family too. "
One of his colleagues, who also worked for the British, was recently robbed, his car full of bullets. He survived, but the episode threw Waheed's wife into an even deeper depression.
As the mail revealed, Taliban translators were beaten, murdered and beheaded. their children and relatives kidnapped and killed.
And the threat to those who are considered "traitors" only increased when the Taliban regained ground.
Last month, the organization was accused of having carried out its deadliest week of violence in 19 years of conflict with 422 attacks in 32 provinces, killing and wounding hundreds.
However, the British ministers have defended their shameful policies and have stated that allowing more interpreters to the UK would result in a brain drain in Afghan society. Indeed, the danger that interpreters face is that they often cannot work anyway and are forced to move from city to city for fear of being hunted and killed.
Another interpreter, Latif, 36, worked for the British military for almost five years.
He, his wife and four children now live in his parents' house in Kabul. Thirteen people live in the two-story house that has been attacked by Taliban gunmen. His enemies even used his children to hand-kill him.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who has been in his post for a year, has promised to go back to politics and will meet Interior Minister Priti Patel earlier this week to discuss the issue
In addition to the constant danger of a murderous attack, they now have to deal with Covid-19, who has already killed three of his family.
& # 39; I can't work. I can not go. We live in one room every day, ”says Latif. "It's because of my work for the British and it's my family that is being punished."
He blames Britain: “The only reason I'm a target is because I worked side by side with British soldiers. The British know this and have evidence that the Taliban are after me. "
Latif began working as a front line interpreter for the British Army in 2007 and completed his studies alongside the SAS.
His work and courage were praised by British officers after being involved in several Taliban ambushes and IED attacks.
In one, a British soldier died. In another case, two men were blown up just five meters away from him.
Latif says that although British officials were given details of threats against him by phone and letter to his family home, he was still not allowed to enter the UK.
"We were left to the Taliban by those we helped protect, and I would ask the government to rethink this," he says.
Dozens of interpreters, fed up with living with constant fear, paid people smugglers and fled Afghanistan. You have made a dangerous journey through hostile Iran – at least two died on the way – to try to get to Britain illegally. Some languish in hellish camps.
Another faithful interpreter for the British, Nesar lives with his sick wife Nazarine (28) in the infamous camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos. He wanted to reach Britain, but was arrested by border guards on the way.
Moria, the “worst refugee camp in the world”, is known for robberies, stabbing, ethnic rivalries, and food and medical shortages. Even children have tried to commit suicide there, they say.
The couple live in a shelter made of pallets, tarpaulins and plastic sheeting, which is held by ropes attached to an olive tree.
A raw wood fire is the only form of heating or cooking. There is no electricity and little sanitation – there are 210 people per toilet and 630 per shower in the camp.
After six months in the camp, the 29-year-old had rejected his asylum application from Greece this week. He is now facing the prospect of being deported to Afghanistan, where he believes he will be killed.
He is understandably desperate for Britain to have him applied for asylum here, setting a precedent for Iraqi translators who could file claims from a third country.
"Our lives are on hold," says Nesar. “Britain seems to think that wanting peace and security is a crime for us. But the crime is their treatment of men who have risked everything for them and are now seeing their families punished for it.
“We see reports of migrants entering the UK (to the UK), Hong Kong people who did nothing to invite the UK. For the few who have done so much, however, there is only rejection, fear, suffering and insecurity. "
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