Wolverhampton woman’s plea for help to rescue Afghan pilot father forced into hiding
An anxious Wolverhampton daughter is pleading with Government officials to help her allied fighter pilot father escape from Afghanistan, where he is in hiding from Taliban forces.
Leza Mohammed said she is in constant fear for the safety of her father Major Shamsullah Shirzad, who was trained by NATO and fought alongside the allies to stop the country from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.
Since the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021 forcing her father into hiding, Ms Mohammed – who lives in Whitmore Reans with her family – has been desperately looking for a way to bring him to safety in the UK.
“Because of who my father is and the job he did with the Afghan Air Force, if the Taliban find him I am almost certain they will kill him,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
“I have the constant worry of this every single day. I manage to speak to my father by telephone very occasionally, but most of the time I don’t know what is happening over there. It’s had a really big effect on my mental health and my anxiety is very bad.
“Nobody was expecting the Taliban to take power so quickly. My father’s passport had expired and he never had the chance to apply for a new one because the situation changed so fast.
“Now, because of biometrics and everything he can’t even apply for a passport – even if he wants to go to Pakistan.
“My hope is that someone in Government can help us get the clearance needed to bring him over here to safety. We have plenty of room in our house so he can easily live here,” she added.
“We would like it for him to be able to apply for British citizenship. Also, he would not be a burden on the Government. He speaks full English and is a skilled person. As well as being an experienced pilot he is also a tailor.”
Ms Mohammed, who was born in Afghanistan, has reached out to local councillor Qaiser Azeem, who represents the St Peter’s ward where she lives.
He in turn has reported her plight to Wolverhampton MP Stuart Anderson.
“This is a very difficult and worrying situation for the family,” said Councillor Azeem. “Unfortunately, as councillors we are somewhat limited in what we can actually do, so that is why I straightaway referred the issue to the local MP.
“The family do need a lot more support and I would appeal to any local organisations who can assist them in any way possible to get in touch with me.”
According to reports, Afghanistan is now facing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with an economy that has no cash to pay salaries or buy food following the suspension of Western aid.
After the Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted Mr Anderson about Ms Mohammed’s situation, his office issued the following statement: “We owe a huge amount of gratitude to all those who put their lives at risk working alongside the UK in Afghanistan.
“While it would not be appropriate for me to comment publicly on individual cases, I fully support the Government’s ongoing work to resettle those at risk who supported the UK’s and international community’s efforts in Afghanistan, as well as those who are particularly vulnerable due to the current situation there.
“I notified the Government of each case raised with me upon receiving them. I know that the Government continues to work at pace to consider every case.
“Although timelines for processing individual cases vary due to the complexity and personal circumstances of every individual, I constantly monitor each case and regularly request updates on them,” he added.
“These schemes remain open and will continue facilitating the relocation of individuals who have worked with the UK in Afghanistan.”
Councillor Azeem said he felt the MP’s office should be providing the family with much more support.
“As a councillor for the St Peter’s ward I will be keeping in close contact with the family and will provide all the necessary support possible during this difficult time.
“An ex-Afghanistan Air Force soldier who worked with the British Forces deserves much more when his life is in danger,” he added.