Afghanistan: ‘My young sister will be forced to marry a Taliban fighter’

image source, Getty Images

A man who escaped Afghanistan to study at a UK university says the Taliban has been threatening his family.

The man, who the BBC is not naming, says he has had messages saying his sister – who is under 13 – will be taken and married to a Taliban fighter.

He fears his sister will be a prisoner for life if she is forced to marry.

The man, who is on the Chevening scholarship scheme, was airlifted to the UK after the Taliban takeover but was unable to bring his family.

He is one of about 35 Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan to the UK to take up Chevening scholarships – which are funded by the Foreign Office and enable promising students around the world to pursue a masters degree in Britain.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the Chevening scholar said the Taliban had told him and his mother that his sister would be taken for marriage within a month.

"They are saying my sister will be married to one of their lunatic members. It's not a death sentence, but what they are doing is imprisoning her for life.

"She'll be like a war prisoner, she can't even pronounce some words, she's in school. But they're saying she shouldn't be in school, she should be getting married."

On 21 August, the man received an email from the Chevening scholarship telling him that he and his immediate dependents could come to the UK.

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But he says the "chaotic" situation at the airport in the country's capital, Kabul, meant he could not "risk" bringing his family.

There were desperate scenes at the airport as the US and its allies – including the UK – scrambled to evacuate their citizens and eligible Afghans before the US withdrew its troops on 31 August.

Some people fell to their deaths after trying to cling to US military planes as they took off, with the security situation being heightened after a suicide bomber killed up to 170 civilians and 13 US troops outside the airport on 26 August. IS-K said it had carried out the attack.

Many of those killed had been hoping to board evacuation flights leaving the city.

The UK government says it has been helping this year's Chevening scholars leave Afghanistan for the UK, with a spokesman adding: "We will continue to do all we can to secure safe passage and deliver on our obligation to get British nationals and eligible Afghans out of the country."

media caption, Chaotic scenes at Kabul airport

The Chevening scholar believes the Taliban are punishing him for his entrepreneurial activities in the country.

"I received Whatsapp calls telling me that I was evacuated by the British army because I was their agent. They tell me that they cannot do any harm to me, but my family will pay the consequences.

"The Taliban think that if you have a link with the international community you are conspiring against the Islamic cultural values of the country.

"[They] will do anything to inflict revenge. They are inhuman. They are terrorising the families of people who have simply been trying to do good for our society."

The man said he was "100% sure" that his sister would be taken in the next month and warned of the consequences if he could not bring his mother, sister and brothers to the UK.

"My sister will be a prisoner to these lunatics for her whole life if this happens."

He added he was "hopeful" that he might be able to bring his family to the UK, as some other Chevening scholars have, but he has not yet received a "positive response" from the government.

image source, Getty Images

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who has been in touch with some of the Chevening scholars who are worried about their relatives in Afghanistan, called for urgent government action.

She called on ministers to relax Home Office rules which she said meant only spouses and a person's children under the age of 18 could come to the UK under current Afghan resettlement schemes.

Ms Lucas urged the government to allow Chevening scholars to bring their siblings and parents to the UK – and for them to "honour their commitment to all Chevening scholars" past and present.

The Green Party MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We need the government to step up, they keep telling us to wait for the opening up of the Afghan citizens' resettlement scheme.

"That was promised on 18 August, that was six weeks ago, that is completely unacceptable that it has taken so long to get that scheme up and running. Every day is a matter of life and death."

"These scholars in particular are at risk because of their identification with the scheme, and that means their families are at risk, so if there was ever a case to look again at these rules of family reunion, this absolutely has to be it. The government needs to act with urgency because lives are [at] risk every day."

The government is still developing its Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme. The government aims to take in 5,000 Afghan refugees in the first year and up to 20,000 in the long term.

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