An Afghan academic evacuated from Kabul thanked the UK for showing him “great love” as he attended his first day at a UK university.
Naimat Zafary, who feared for his life after the Taliban took power, is one of nine Afghan students enrolling at the University of Sussex under the UK government’s Chevening program.
The father of four was airlifted amid difficult and desperate scenes on August 23 after spending 10 days in hiding in his hometown Kabul after it fell into the hands of militants.
British soldiers had to pull his group out of a pool of dirty water as they tried to force their way through large crowds at the airport in the final days of the mass evacuation.
The university graduate previously worked as a United Nations project coordinator and had applied for the scholarship – which allows emerging leaders from around the world to pursue a master’s degree in the UK – for four consecutive years before being accepted.
He feared being targeted by the country’s new rulers because of his work with the UN and his prominent association with the Chevening scholarship.
The hopes of Naimat and those of her peers were initially dashed when the British Embassy in Kabul said before the fall of the Afghan government that it was unable to process student visas in time for their scholarships. This year.
The fluent English speaker acted as the media spokesperson for the group and they were allowed to travel to the UK after Boris Johnson stepped in to issue expedited visas.
Naimat, who attended an introduction to the university today, is currently living temporarily in London with his wife, Saima, and daughters aged three, nine and seven and his 18-month-old son.
Speaking about his homeland, he said: “It was a shocking situation.
“I had a dream of studying in the UK and coming back to improve my country, but the ministries are no longer there.
“Instead, there are barbarians in power who don’t know the value of education. You cannot enter into a dialogue with them.
“These 10 days have been the most stressful times of my life.
“I couldn’t leave the house for fear the Taliban would kill me.
“I only went out once or twice and when I went to the market I could see the fear in people’s eyes, there was no more joy in Kabul.
On August 22, Naimat and his family drove to Kabul airport with only a handful of personal belongings, but were unable to make their way through a crowd of around 15,000.
The next day, as the scenes grew more and more desperate, he and about 36 Chevènes and their dependents formed a circle with men and young people holding hands outside and women, children and children. old people in the middle. British soldiers pulled them out of a pool of dirty water which, two days later, was said to be the scene of carnage after a suicide bombing.
“We formed a human chain because that was the only way to protect women, children and the elderly from the force of the crowd,” he said.
“In total, it took us three hours to reach the point where the British soldiers were. We walked through the dirty water basin and they reached out and pulled us out. It was 10 hours after we arrived at the airport.
The researcher is now enrolled in a one-year postgraduate course in governance, development and public policy at the Institute of Development Studies, which is affiliated with the university and based on its campus in Falmer, East Sussex.
His future is uncertain, but he remains a passionate champion of education and development in Afghanistan, and plans to support his homeland through research and writing in the UK after graduation.
“What happened in Afghanistan is a tragedy,” he said.
“I was reading a report last week that said that by 2022 there will be 97% poverty in the country.
“I think the international community should support the Afghan people, they need humanitarian aid and education.
“Even if you stop studying for a year or two, you are shattering the dreams of boys and girls who wanted to pursue higher education. “
Naimat traveled to Sussex, which is one of the shrine’s 15 UK universities, ahead of his family’s planned move in around two weeks.
“I have found calm and peace in the UK with happy smiling faces welcoming you which touched my heart,” he told Metro.co.uk
‘It’s fantastic. I can go to the park with my family and enjoy a very peaceful environment. I can see a very good future for my children here.
“I feel like I had a great love for the UK on my trip, including soldiers reaching out to me and pulling me out of the pool. I received such a warm welcome and I feel at home.
Naimat is one of a dozen new and old students from Afghanistan arriving at the university this week.
Nine of them are part of the Chevening program, some of whom study at the Institute of Development Studies. Three more are currently overseas and hope to visit campus soon.
The university is appealing to support students as they rebuild their lives in the UK.
To learn more about the Sussex Fund’s Afghan appeal, click here.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact [email protected]
For more stories like this, see our news page.