The Afghan interpreters cut adrift by French army

Threatened at home, only 73 of the 258 former Afghan auxiliaries in French army who requested visas to live in France have been granted them.

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Abdul Raziq returned home to his house in the western outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul at the end of January 2015 to discover a threat nailed to his door, reports FRANCE 24.

Like those before it, the letter was anonymous and filled with insults, but this time it spoke of beheading.

Previous threats, made by phone, had called Raziq a “traitor” a “spy” and "a foreign dog”, after which he had spent a month in hiding.

Death threats for Raziq and others like him are a common occurrence. The reason: the 24-year-old was one of hundreds of Afghans employed as interpreters by the French army during its 13 years of operations in the country.

When France withdrew its combat troops in 2012, these interpreters were left behind to face the consequences of their time spent serving a foreign power. Many see fleeing to France as their only chance of safety but, as Raziq found, the country they spent years serving has often been less than welcoming.

Of the 258 former Afghan auxiliaries in the French army who have requested visas to live in France, only 73 have been granted permission.

“When France refused my application, I was told there was no other solution,” says Raziq.

Raziq was just 14 when he began working for the French army back in 2001 as the first battalions under the tricolour flag began arriving in Afghanistan. He got the job thanks to his mastery of French, learnt at the private school he attended in Kabul.

“I grew up with the French army,” says Raziq.

Some, like 23-year-old Ahmad, have fled the country despite being refused a French visa.

Having worked for the French army for a little under a year -- between September 2011 and June 2012 -- Ahmad quit when he began receiving death threats.

Fearing for his safety, he applied for a visa at the French embassy, without success.
Desperate, he left his home country and travelled to France where he applied for asylum. Again he was rejected.

He spent the next two weeks braving the autumn cold on the streets of Paris before travelling to Stuttgart, Germany, where he has spent the past five months. Speaking just a smattering of German, he is currently living at a hostel as he waits for the authorities to decide his fate.

“Sometimes, I regret having chosen to learn French,” he says.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.

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