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Beaten up by the Taliban: British family’s ordeal escaping Afghanistan

Written by on 21/08/2021

Threatened, held at gunpoint, and beaten up by the Taliban; a family of thirteen from London have spoken of their desperate bid to get out of Kabul, having now reached safety.

Sky News exclusively followed their plight as they lived through the uncertainty and trauma of being trapped in the Afghan city.

Sabrallah Zahiri, from Hounslow, told Sky News: “We are so happy now we got out and looking forward to getting back to the UK. Everyone wants to run away from this country. They all hate this country; in my opinion this country is finished it’s never going to be like it was before.”

Mr Zahiri and twelve other family members are now safe at Kabul airport and waiting for an RAF flight home.

The group had flown to Kabul from Heathrow in late July for a double wedding in the Afghan capital which took place in early August.

They’d travelled with children aged two and eight. Their flight was due back last Monday but was cancelled.

We first spoke to them on Tuesday when their world was caving in after members of the Taliban mustered outside their apartment and confiscated their car.

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Mr Zahiri explains: “They said ‘you have to give me the key’. I said ‘why, it’s my own car not the government’s car?’ and they said, ‘we don’t care’ and they put a gun to my head, and I said ‘okay, take it’.”

The family got in touch with the British consulate and was told to wait for a call to go to the airport.

They filmed the Taliban from their window and family members can be heard getting increasingly upset as gunmen climb over fences towards them.

On Wednesday, several armed members of the Taliban came into the apartment and threatened the man who was housing them.

Mr Zahiri says: “The Taliban came to the house and said: ‘why are you keeping these guys in your home’ they came from the United Kingdom and ‘you should kick them out.'”

This family from London travelled to Afghanistan for a wedding
Image: This family from London travelled to Afghanistan for a wedding

The homeowner, Ajmil Hibibi, Mr Zahiri’s uncle, refused to kick them out. He also made it to the safety of the NATO controlled compound, but the journey was full of peril. Between his home and the airport was a gauntlet of checkpoints.

The family had watched videos of people being forced back from the airport perimeter fence by soldiers shooting over heads. It was hardly a journey anyone would choose for a large family.

On Thursday they received a call from the embassy to go and set out. The roads were clogged with others trying to reach the airport and the sound of traffic sometimes punctured with gunfire. On route they were stopped by the Taliban.

Mr Zahiri’s brother, Abdul Wajed, told Sky News: “We tried to go for the flight, but the Taliban attacked us, and they hit me with a gun, with AK47 in the middle of my chest and I fell to the floor. They hit my uncle as well.”

They returned to the apartment, disheartened, and scared of what would happen next.

They knew even if they got past the Taliban the crush outside the airport was another hazard. But on Friday night, they risked another journey, this time getting past the Taliban, reaching the concrete walls around the airport.

They spent hours overnight with tired and tearful children waiting in darkness, working through the crowds until finally they reached the front of the queue early on Saturday morning, relieved to be able to show their passports to members of the British Army.

They had navigated the most dangerous journey of their lives – and were overwhelmed by the contrast between the horrific treatment of the Taliban and the kindness of the British soldiers who gave them food and water.

They came through the British army checkpoint just hours before several people were fatally crushed at the gates. The entrance closed behind them. For once luck was on their side – but many others are still waiting, still calculating how to make it through.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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