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2021.08.17 12:28

Waiting for airlift to Lithuania, Afghan translators hide in Kabul: ‘delays will endanger lives’

Benas Gerdžiūnas, LRT.lt2021.08.17 12:28

LRT got in touch via a local journalist with an Afghan translator who worked with Lithuanian troops and says he is now facing death threats from the Taliban. Together with another 14 translators and their families, he is currently hiding in Kabul, waiting for a way out.

“We brought our families [...] from Ghor province to Kabul and [we] hope to leave Kabul through the Lithuanian government. It’s the only way that we have,” the man said.

LRT could not confirm the identity of the interviewee, but was shown documents attesting to the man’s cooperation with the Lithuanian troops. The name was withheld for security reasons.

The journey from Ghor, where the Lithuanian troops led the regional reconstruction team from 2005 until 2013, “was difficult” and involved using fake IDs, according to the man.

“We came secretly here [using] different ways. For example, there were some highways and also main ways that the Taliban took control of [...] and were also checking passengers on checkpoints,” he said.

The man said he worked with Lithuanian troops from 2011 until 2013. Recently, he and other translators started receiving threats from the Taliban and turned to Lithuania asking for asylum.

At the time, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said it was “a matter of honour for the state” to help those who worked alongside the troops. But after a rapid takeover of Kabul, Lithuania’s deputy defence minister admitted on Monday that the time window to get the translators out “was getting slimmer”.

According to the translator, “more than 15 interpreters came from different provinces to Kabul, they are just waiting for a quick and urgent response from [the Lithuanian] Ministry of Defence”.

“At this time, the control of our country is under the control of the Taliban. We are really in a serious threat.”

“Taliban have threatened us with letters, they are also calling us through WhatsApp and also through audio calls, also asking where you are located,” he said. “That’s why we are hiding ourselves in many parts of Kabul. We are just in contact through WhatsApp.”

With the streets of the Afghan capital under Taliban control, he said they had been forced to live underground.

“We don't have any information about the situation [in Kabul], because all the media who are publishing information and also the news reports are [forced to] censor all the issues to the benefit of the Taliban and also to their activities. That's why we are not in the streets and also not in the city to know what's going on.”

Speaking over WhatsApp, the man said that “the Lithuanian Defence Ministry mentioned that an envoy will come to Afghanistan to take you”, but didn’t elaborate how.

As commercial flights have ceased, the only planes departing Kabul are government-ordered flights while the airport remains under the control of US troops.

“Delaying the process will endanger our lives more,” the translator said. “It seems that the process is not speeding up [and we] still don’t know when and how [we] will be taken out.”

Read more: Lithuania ‘racing against time’ to save Afghan interpreters

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