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Afghan evacuees tell of dramatic escapes

2 December 20210 comments

Two former Australian embassy employees have told of their dramatic escapes from Kabul as the Taliban took control of the city.

*‘Gul’ was employed by the Australian embassy as a cleaner for 11 years.

“It was scary when the embassy closed. I had no job and opportunity for work,” Gul said.

“We were worried that if the Taliban came and took over – which they eventually did – they would persecute and punish those people who helped or worked with westerners,” he said.

“We applied for visas to come to Australia when the embassy closed and when the Taliban took over we got our visas.

“I was the only breadwinner in our family. Life for us was OK but feeding 12 people was a challenge – we were just making ends meet. Without my work at the embassy and a regular income, I don’t know what would have happened to us,” he said

Gul arrived in Australia with 12 family members, including his eldest son and his wife.

He said getting into the airport and finding a place on an aircraft out of Afghanistan was a close run thing.

“When I got a letter advising us to go to the airport, we left immediately,” Gul said.

“But when we got there it was chaos – it was very busy with teargas and people firing into air.

“We managed to get into a drain that entered the airport – there was dirty water and my daughter and my wife fainted at times. There was not much water and no food to eat.

“Finally on the third day of being there we managed to get closer to the gate and we got in by showing our visas.

“We spent one night there under a temporary shelter on the soccer ground inside the army base at the airport. On the second night we got on military plane to Dubai. Then we took an Australian charter flight to Sydney, where we were in quarantine for 15 days.

“We arrived in Sydney on August 27th and then came to Melbourne on September 11.

“We chose to come to Melbourne because we know people already here.

“I’m not sure what the future looks like. But whatever fate brings we will go with.

“My family is happy to be safe,” Gul said.
*‘Torg’ was a security guard at the embassy for 13 years.

The 35-year-old has seven children and says he is happy to be in Australia for their sakes.

“When the Taliban came, we were told we would be helped with visas to get to Australia,” Torg said

“And when the Taliban did come we were really scared and someone tipped them off about us – so I took my family away from our home to a safer place.

“Then we were give visas and told to go to a place near the drain that enters the airport. There we were picked up by the Australian army,” he said.

Torg said there were 110 local employees at the embassy.

“Thirty-five 35 of them are still in Afghanistan. All applied for visas and most got them, but about 8 or 10 people were refused visas – we don’t know why,” he said.

Torg and his family were flown to Dubai and then to Brisbane where they went into hotel quarantine.

For him, the immediate future is about improving his English and getting his kids into school.

“We want to thank AMES, the Australian government and people for giving us this chance for a new life,” Torg said.

“We are grateful and excited about the future. My kids will have lots of opportunities here in Australia,” he said.  

(*Names have been changed to protect family members of the two men still in Afghanistan)