‘Escalating violence and death’ Afghan ex-refugee fears for future after US pullout

NHS doctor calls on government to 'rethink' immigration plan

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Dr Waheed Arian also fears there is nothing to prevent either China or Russia from “filling the void” which the Americans will leave. However, he believes the UK has a big role to play, not only diplomatically, but also by offering sanctuary in this country to Afghans fleeing a seemingly endless cycle of violence.

For as long as I can remember, Afghanistan has been trapped in a cycle of war and violence

Dr Waheed Arian

Dr Arian, who came to the UK at the age of 15 with $100 in his pocket, and who ended up winning a place at Cambridge University, is the founder of global telemedicine charity, Arian Teleheal, which connects doctors in the UK and US with those in low-resource countries.

He also fronted a campaign by Freedom From Torture, protesting against the new UK immigration rules, as well as writing a book, In the Wars, chronicling his experiences of life under the Taliban.

With the resurgent Islamist movement now believed to control 85 percent of Afghanistan barely a month before the last US soldiers leave the country, Dr Arian told Express.co.uk: “For as long as I can remember, Afghanistan has been trapped in a cycle of war and violence.”

The mountainous country occupies a unique strategic position which has made it a “political football”, and which has contributed to its constant instability, he explained.

He added: “My childhood in Afghanistan was spent being shelled by the Russians.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was avoiding intense gunfire from the Taliban.

“The constant shift in allegiances and agendas have all resulted in a political stalemate and has proven that no single party or power can dominate.

“Inevitably, the power vacuum will result in a heavy civilian death toll, and there is nothing stopping the next superpower – either Russia or China – from filling the void. Sadly, history is repeating itself.”

Dr Arian said: “The withdrawal of American troops will inevitably lead to escalating violence and death of innocent men, women and children.

“But that’s not to say that I agree with permanent foreign presence, or can ignore the corruption that Western occupation has fostered in my country.

“As someone who cares deeply about people’s basic human right to live in safety and peace, my main concern is for the civilians of Afghanistan.

“It has been the reason I keep going back to the region – to establish Arian Teleheal, and to contribute to my country of birth while also proudly serving people in the NHS in my adopted country, UK. My optimism is more hope over experience.”

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Most Afghans simply craved peace and stability, Dr Arian emphasised.

He said: “They want to send their children to school without fear, they want healthcare and infrastructure.

“Despite its troubled colonial past and present, and heavy loss of civilian life due to conflict, many gains have been made. This is in part due to the resilience and optimism of its people.

“Many Afghans have helped to establish services and ‘normal life’.”

“Things will improve only if they are not hindered by political unrest.”

As the refugee crisis intensified, Britain was in a position to help in terms of diplomacy, as well as by being what Dr Arian termed “champions of compassion and protection”.

He explained: “Afghans will be fleeing violence and making dangerous journeys across the world to find safety.

“It is troubling that people who end up on UK shores will now be classed as ‘irregular asylum seekers’ and turned away because of this government’s new anti-refugee bill – the Nationality and Borders Bill.

“I made the same journey just over two decades ago. I left behind my family and everything behind, and ran to Britain for safety as a traumatised 15-year-old.

“Although I carried with me my dreams and the determination to pursue them despite all odds, I was only able to rebuild my life and give back because of the British government and people’s compassion.”

He stressed: “As an NHS emergency doctor working on the frontline during the pandemic, I think about this every day.

“Britain must step up and play its role in giving protection to those fleeing from the country it occupied for so long. It is the right thing to do.”

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