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Saved by a phone charger – refugee family’s electronic escape

30 October 20210 comments

A small hole in a fence, a kindly US marine and a borrowed power charger were the difference between freedom and safety – and an uncertain and possibly grim fate for Afghan refugee ‘Nazari’.

Nazari* (not his real name) and his family were among more than 120,000 people evacuated by military aircraft from Kabul International Airport between August 13 and 30 this year. Led by the US, the operation also included the air forces of Australia, the UK, Germany, Canada, Korea, India and a host of European nations.

As a former translator for the Australian military and as a member of the Tajik ethnic minority, Nazari would have faced double dangers if he had remained in Afghanistan

“I was working with the coalition forces as a translator and advisor – for the US and Australian air forces between 2011 and September 2020,” he told iMPACT magazine.

“My work was translating, advising and liaising with the local Afghan army and people. I worked with the coalition across Afghanistan, my final place was Base Ochre in Kabul,” he said.

“After that I worked as a taxi driver. We all became very worried in 2019 when the Taliban began taking a lot of territory.

“When they arrived in Kabul it became even more worrying. After three days I decided we had to try to get out of the country so I applied for visas.

“At first I went to the airport myself – I thought it was too crowded for my wife and kids.

“I got into the airport and explained to the American marines that I had to get my family out too. They said ‘you have to get your family here’,” Nazari said.

Nazari made a daring round trip out of the airport compound to try to get his wife and eight kids to safety.

“I brought my wife and kids to the airport. After spending days outside the airport trying to get it, eventually we got back into the airport. The marines helped us get through a small hole in the fence,” he said.

“It was very hard. We were there five days with dirty clothing and not much water or food.

“The sun was hot during the day and it was cold at night.

“But my phone had no power for two days and I could not access anything. But I managed to borrow a power charger and turned on my phone. It was then I saw my Australian visa. The US military people took us to the Australians who said ‘OK you are going to Australia’.

“The visa was issued while we were inside the airport and it meant that we could get on a plane out,” he said.

After spending a few days at the Australian base in Dubai, Nazari and his family arrived in Brisbane on August 26 where they were in hotel quarantine for two weeks.

“We told the government people we wanted to go to Melbourne because I have friends who were interpreter colleagues already here,” he said.

“I’m very happy and excited to be here with my family. It’s a beautiful place and it’s safe for them.

“I’m not sure about the future but I will look for a job with the help of my friends,” he said.

Nazari said he was grateful for the opportunity to start a new life in Australia.

“We appreciate the Australian Government and people giving us this opportunity,” he said.

“We also appreciate AMES’ support with food and clothing and accommodation. “We are very happy to be here and we appreciate the help of Australian taxpayers.”

But Nazari has fears for the future of his homeland.

“There is a dark future for Afghanistan. The economy is being destroyed and respect for human rights has been swept away,” he said.

“My family face challenges in the future. There is uncertainty but we are happy to be here because my kids have the chance of a bright future in this country,” Nazari said.

*Nazari’s name has been changed to protect family members still in Afghanistan