Mohammad fled to Russia in 2009. After working for several months as an interpreter on an American military base he fell victim to persecution back home. He tried to legalize his stay in Russia for 9 years but his temporary asylum and refugee status claims were rejected despite the general state of the country and danger of the Afghan citizen going home. The Civic Assistance Committee helped Mohammad leave for a European country under a UNHCR resettlement programme. Now that he is safe he allowed us to share his story.
The first three months on the American military base Mohammad was paid 600 dollars per month, then his monthly paycheck was increased up to 800 dollars. Very good money for Kabul! The Afghan was so proud of his job, especially considering how hard it was to get. When his father died he became the family’s breadwinner, his uncles were so poor they could barely make ends meet and his siblings were too young to make a living. 800 dollars were enough for the household, pocket money for the family and even himself. Another reason for joy was a promise of further salary growth in 6 months.
However it wasn’t meant to happen: Mohammad had been working for just a few months with the team when the office received a letter addressing all interpreters and telling them to either quit and start working with Taliban or to expect punishment. At first no one gave this message much thought. Yet in two weeks another letter arrived, this time informing everyone that Taliban knew where each interpreter lived. Two days later one member of the team disappeared only to be found dead later.
After the supposed murder all interpreters stopped coming into the office, including Mohammad. He wasn’t planning to leave the country at first, he just moved to another province where he learned that another one of his colleagues was found dead. It became clear that ever since he quit his job his was living in fear, he could no longer bear the constant strain.
Mohammad obtained an invitation through his friends in Moscow and flew in in 2009.
After having been denied refugee status by MIA, he sought help with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Following an interview, Mohammad was determined as a person at-risk that needed international protection. According to UNHCR, anti-government groups were in fact “threatening or attacking Afghan nationals working for international security services as drivers, interpreters or engaged in other civil services”.
UNHCR guidelines of 2010 said that “A recently intercepted message from Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban movement, ordered Taliban members to capture and kill any Afghan who is supporting or working for Coalition forces or the Government of Afghanistan, (…) The message, which departs from his previous instructions to minimize civilian deaths, has fuelled fears of Taliban retaliation among ISAF civilian support personnel, such as Afghan interpreters”.
Photo: Mohammad and Evgeniya Lyozova, migration consultant with the Civic Assistance Committee
Translated by Elena Fedyushkina