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‘They put a gun to my head’: British family tells of nightmare stuck in Afghanistan

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A London family who travelled to Afghanistan for a wedding this summer has spoken of their nightmare of being stranded in Kabul.

Sabrallah Zahiri and his relatives flew to Afghanistan from Heathrow on 19 July and were due to return this Monday. Instead they are stuck, peering from their apartment window in fear at the Taliban outside.

Mr Zahiri, from Hounslow, said he tried to leave but had his car stolen at gunpoint.

He told Sky News: “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.”

Sabrallah Zahiri with his brothers Abdul Wajed and Fatur Raman at a wedding on 8 August
Image: Mr Zahiri with his brothers Abdul Wajed and Fatur Raman at a wedding on 8 August

The wedding, on 8 August, was attended by 11 British nationals, including two children aged two and eight. There are also two newlywed brides with visas to remain in the UK.

All 13 are trying to get back.

Mr Zahiri said he had been in contact with the British consulate and was told to stay put until they get in touch with further details. He said: “I just keep trying to call them and they just say ‘you have to wait, you have to wait’. But I don’t know for how long.”

More on Afghanistan

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

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The Taliban holds first news conference

In a news conference on Tuesday, the Taliban said: “We want the world to trust us.” But their own people are living in fear.

We spoke to the sister of a British national who, after her father died, now lives in an all-women household in Kabul.

Women fear that under Taliban rule they are not allowed to leave home without a man, and therefore no one is able to even go out to buy food.

The mother and four sisters aged 25 to 45 have locked themselves in for four days, afraid of how they will be treated by the new rulers.

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Their other sister Maria Mohmoodi-Karimzad, who lives in Hounslow in west London, said: “In your own country, in your homeland, you can’t get out of your house alone as a woman, because there is no man. Where’s the human rights? Where’s the women’s rights?”

The Taliban say they will uphold women’s rights, within their interpretation of Islamic texts, and as it stands there’s not much the international community can do other than hope women will have freedoms.

Abdul Ahmedi
Image: Abdul Ahmedi believes western governments have no choice now but to work with the Taliban

Abdul Ahmedi who runs a dry cleaners in Chiswick, west London, also has parents and siblings in Afghanistan. He believes western governments have no choice now but to work with the Taliban.

He told Sky News: “They have to help them the way they helped the previous government. They’ve spent trillions over there and most of the money has gone to the war.

“Now they should engage with the Taliban, not for the sake of the Taliban, but for the Afghan people – because they don’t deserve to be isolated the way they were after the war with the Soviet Union.”

These are crucial days for those trying to get out and for those who can’t, anxiously waiting to see what will become of their country.