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A Leamington resident has revealed her family’s terror after the Taliban threatened to execute her mother in Afghanistan – while an MP has condemned the government for failing 25 families in Warwick district.
Shabnam Nishat, 36, lives with her husband, Rostam, and their four young children in Whitnash after moving to the UK in 2007.
They are one of 25 desperate families in Warwick and Leamington hoping their stranded relatives can still be evacuated as Taliban Islamists strengthen their hold over Afghanistan.
This is despite the UK government ending evacuations from Kabul airport on Saturday night (August 28), concluding its 20-year military campaign in the war-torn nation.
Each of the 25 families is being assisted by Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, who has branded the government’s desertion of the families and the Afghan people as ‘unforgivable.’
Mrs Nishat says she feels sick with worry for her mother, father, sister, and brother who attempted to flee the Taliban but are now in hiding.
Mrs Nishat’s mother, who cannot be named in the interests of her safety, worked as a politician, and faces a particularly grave risk of persecution – along with her relatives – because she opposed the Taliban and fought for gender equality while working with the United Nations (UN).
Militants have already threatened to kill her during a phone call, Mrs Nishat says, leaving the family in constant fear for her safety.
The Taliban has played down concerns it is seeking retribution against its opponents, those who had any association with the UK or the US, or women who took on roles inconsistent with its interpretation of Islam.
But reports of violence and executions are already ruminating from many Afghan cities, after militants unexpectedly stormed to power following the US and UK military withdrawal.
Mrs Nishat sought Mr Western’s help with ensuring her mother and the rest of her imperilled family got to safety before the August 31 deadline by which western troops finally left Kabul airport and evacuations from Afghanistan were halted.
Mrs Nishat – who is a student at Warwickshire College and until the pandemic worked as a teaching assistant at Briar Hill Infant School – said: “I’m ready to do everything for my family. They are at risk and are in hiding now.
“The Taliban is threatening them. A man called my mother and told her ‘if I find you, I will kill you.’ She is very scared and has switched off her phone.
“I am here, my family is here, we are UK citizens – why can’t the UK government save my family in Afghanistan?
“I’m not very well. I go to sleep and I worry about not seeing my family again. I feel hopeless.”
Reports suggest the UK government has been unable to evacuate nearly 7,000 people who hoped they might be granted safe passage to the UK, including the relatives of the 25 families in Warwick and Leamington.
Mr Western said: “I have scarcely been so angry in all my years working as an elected representative.
“So many people have been unforgivably deserted by this government – potentially left to suffer violence and death under the Taliban.
“My team worked so hard every day to help desperate constituents who have been ignored by the Foreign Office and must now be fearing they will never see their families again.
“It feels like we have failed them – but it is this government that failed to plan and failed to help so many people. Shame on them.”
The Observer revealed this weekend that more than 5,000 emails to the Foreign Office were ignored as MPs, charities and caseworkers frantically attempted to arrange safe passage to the UK for those fleeing the Taliban.
The UK and the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 at the outset of the so-called ‘War on Terror,’ triggered by the 9/11 attacks. After 20 years and amid international criticism, both nations withdrew their troops leaving Taliban fighters to overwhelm the Afghan army and seize control – despite 18 months of preparations, and assurances the Taliban posed little threat.