A “cry for help” was launched this week from Afghanistan by a dozen former employees of French cooperation who worked for several years on projects of the French Embassy but who say they have seen their visa applications refused and live in hiding in their homes in the face of possible retaliation from the Taliban.
A Facebook page titled “The Forgotten of Kabul” was set up on Wednesday by several of their former colleagues. These former employees launched a distress call in a video and a photo posted on one of the Facebook page, where we can see their children carrying posters stating “Mr. Emmanuel Macron, we were your colleagues, our rights are lost by the embassy, we are in danger ”. Their fathers hide their faces with photocopies of “their employment contracts and their embassy service cards,” they said.
All worked between four and thirteen years for French projects, as drivers, computer scientist, teacher. Among them, some are from the Hazara minority, persecuted by the Taliban. AFP was able to verify the veracity of their CVs with third parties.
“Holes in the racket”
“It was very dangerous to go out in Kabul to get together and take these photos and video”, testifies in a good French one of his ex-employees, Ehsan (first name changed for security reasons), 47 years old, joined by phone in Kabul. “The Taliban are active on social networks, we took risks by making this video,” adds Ahmad (first name changed), 34, also joined in Kabul. The latter, a teacher and from the Hazara minority, worked in an embassy project from 2011 to 2015 as an associate scientific coordinator, in particular for the modernization of science education in primary education.
In the spring, fearing the threatening advance of the Taliban, these ex-employees contacted the French embassy to request visas to flee possible reprisals, but say they received an end of inadmissibility, because not having worked for the embassy “in 2018 and beyond”. In a text, their former colleagues recall that “French cooperation has funded since 2002 many educational programs including an emblematic project in the two large high schools in Kabul”.
According to the text, “France has kept its promises for the very large part of the staff, welcomed in France, but there are still” holes in the racket “which have tragic consequences”. “Former employees (…) were not included in the lists which were apparently drawn up from a date, 2018, when it was necessary to work for France. Those who lost their job (end of projects) or left it would not have been counted as having worked for France, ”notes the text.
“My family and I are afraid, we don’t sleep anymore”
Contacted, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled that Paris “welcomed in France, between May and July last, the Afghan employees of French structures in Afghanistan, ie 625 people representing 152 families. We are currently doing everything we can to continue, under exceptionally difficult conditions, to protect Afghans who are threatened because of their links with our country ”, without further details for the moment.
Ehsan, who worked as a computer scientist and computer teacher at the two high schools from 2003 to 2016, explains having sent 14 emails to the embassy since the spring. “We have contracts, certificates, recommendations… but no one is listening to us. My family and I are afraid, we don’t sleep anymore, ”confides this father of five children. Recently, he was working in commerce and giving computer lessons. But in recent days, he’s been holed up at home.
“Whether it is before or after 2018, for us, it’s the same… we worked with foreigners” in the eyes of the Taliban, he blurted out. “I spent 13 years of my youth with the French Embassy; maybe if I had worked for another European country, I could have left Kabul today ”.
The fear of having been spotted outside the embassy
On Monday, the day after the Taliban entered Kabul, some of these ex-employees and their families fled their homes to settle in the street in front of the French embassy to try to assert their request, in vain. “We stayed all night until the morning with the children, it was hard,” says Ehsan.
Returning home since, they fear to have been “spotted” by the Taliban who circulated around the embassy. A fear heightened after the publication of a confidential UN document showing that the Taliban intensified their hunt for Afghans who worked with foreign forces. “I worked for 4 years for the French Embassy, I am disappointed …”, Ahmad cowardly coward, moved. “I didn’t want to leave my country, but I really feel in danger”.