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Afghan ex-interpreters seek French visas, citing threats

Afghan former interpreters for the French army hold banners during a demonstration demanding French visas outside of the French Embassy in Kabul. (AFP)
KABUL: Nearly 100 Afghan former interpreters for the French Army demanded French visas on Tuesday so they can leave their country, saying they face regular threats from insurgents.
The group, which gathered near the French Embassy but was promptly dispersed by police, displayed banners calling for protection and France’s solidarity with endangered interpreters.
“Why are we still here in Kabul? Why were our demands rejected by the French government?” said Khodadad Adib, 28, their representative.
“We were with the soldiers in sometimes dangerous places. Today we find ourselves in a fragile situation but the army is no longer there with us.”
The interpreters said they were currently in danger after taking risks alongside the French troops deployed against the Taliban insurgency.
They said they have seen their visa applications rejected once and sometimes several times without explanation.
“I would like to know why,” said Habibullah Habib, 24, who was an interpreter for the French in the dangerous Kapisa valley northeast of Kabul.
“Daesh and the Taliban are looking for us. If they find us they will kill us for working with foreign armies,” he said.
Habib, who lives with relatives in Parwan province north of Kabul, said he had received several anonymous letters threatening him and his family with death.
“Sometimes I have to wear a burqa to go out on the street and go to work. My father wears a mask to go to the mosque, my brothers do not go to school any more,” he said.
In 2013 and again in 2015, his visa application was refused.
“I get calls calling me a spy for working with foreign troops,” said Noorzai Mohammed Amin, 50.
A total of 70,000 French soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan between the end of 2001 and the end of 2014, of whom 89 were killed and about 700 wounded.
Some 700 Afghans worked with them in jobs such as mechanics, housekeepers and interpreters.
One hundred of these have benefited from a process of “relocation” in France.
Others have tried illegal emigration routes, sometimes at the risk of their lives.
A similar demonstration by Afghan interpreters was scheduled simultaneously on Tuesday in Paris.