Fahim, a journalist who had worked with British media organizations, was one of thousands of Afghans who turned to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for help in escaping Afghanistan after the Taliban conquest this summer.
He was told he was allowed to travel with his family to the UK and he was also one of the many left behind when the promised help from FCDO failed.
A Panjshiri journalist, Fahim (not his real name) has not slept in the same house for more two nights in a row since the Taliban took power four months ago, fearing for his life.
Leslie Knott, a documentary filmmaker who has tried to help Fahim leave Afghanistan, told the Guardian what happened.
“On August 18th [in the midst of the evacuation crisis], I was asked for the names of journalists who had worked with British news agencies so they could be included on a manifesto for evacuation.
“[Fahim], his wife and nine children were included in this list submitted to the FCDO. He quickly received the news that he had been approved by the FCDO and that he should pack his suitcases, keep his phone charged and be ready to leave at any time.
“There were never any phone calls. Repeated attempts to reach FCDO went nowhere.”
Fahim picks up the story. After initial contact via email with British officials at the start of the evacuation crisis, he says he has heard nothing.
“They asked about me. I live in Kabul. What were my problems. It’s been a long time now. They were in contact two months ago. Since then I have not heard anything. I tried several times to contact them.”
Knott said the most “heartbreaking” was the knowledge that Fahim and his family, through their contacts with the FCDO, were convinced they would travel. They even called her to ask how best to prepare to leave.
“He wanted to know how much food they were going to bring to the kids and how they could secure their house. They were in the mindset they were leaving, so it was devastatingly disappointing.”
For many others who had worked closely with Western and Western organizations, it was a similar story. Told that they were approved to travel, they say they did not hear back from British officials, either with coordination details to reach the airport and evacuation flights, or later after the last flights had passed.
And while some managed to get to Pakistan and leave it, many others have remained trapped in Afghanistan.
Another Afghan journalist, who, like Fahim, had been approved to travel to Britain with his family, sent a message, seen by the Guardian, after the last British plane had departed, saying they had simply been left behind and asked for help. .
That journalist eventually managed to escape Afghanistan himself.