British Afghan leaders call for sanctions and elections in open letter

British Afghans met in Feltham on Saturday to write an open letter to the Government calling for sanctions and elections in Afghanistan.

They suggested creating a decentralised Afghan government with more authority given to provinces and districts, as well as demanding a return to military commitment from the UK.

The letter said: “The UK must stand up for international law and make it clear that the Taliban will be held accountable for their military offensives and human rights abuses through meaningful measures.  

“The Afghan government has been rooted in corruption and widespread human rights abuses; we believe they do not have the capability or leadership to support the country out of this devastating situation.”

The meeting took place at the Afghan and Central Asian Association (ACAA), a charity which provides support to Afghans in the UK and works with the Government to promote human rights in Afghanistan.

The letter also referenced the wider geo-political implications of a civil war, warning against the influence of surrounding states.

It said: “The countries who do not share our values – Russia, Iran and China – are also in contact with the Taliban which means the situation would not only create opportunities for a safe haven for extremists and will invite a confrontation between adversarial and nuclear-armed states.”

Afghan and Central Asian Association members

During the meeting there was anger at war crimes committed by the Taliban and the loss of civilian life at the hands of foreign troops, as well as frustration with the US and NATO handling of the withdrawal.

There were also calls for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to resign after endorsing the US backed release of hardcore Taliban prisoners in 2020.

Ex-general Abdul Wahid Khuram, 63, said: “Here we have to lobby the British government to let them know we need democracy and freedom.

“We have to give financial help, and then help the people against the Taliban.”

He also condemned Pakistani involvement in the conflict, though many Taliban leaders live in Pakistan the Prime Minister Imran Khan has denied his country is providing a launchpad for the insurgency.

ACAA women’s outreach officer Noorzia Aimaq, 42, recalled the capture of her village in Baghlan by Taliban fighters, describing a mass rape which led to the suicide of seven women.

Having escaped the Taliban in 2017 to come to the UK she said she would not reveal everything she had seen for fear of reprisals against her family.

She added: “For the nation of Afghanistan, who is going to support them? Who will fight for them? Where will they live? It is a big concern.”

She also called for more Afghan’s to speak English so they could communicate issues to the British government.

ACAA director Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi repeated the call for British Afghans to learn English and urged anyone present to put their proposals forward to the foreign office.

He said: “The reason the Taliban is fighting is because we are not speaking, we are not raising our voice to the international community to say what we want.

“You have to make your own strategy because the Taliban have their own strategy.

“If the Taliban come to power, they will turn the public against the British.”

Having captured five provincial capitals since Friday the Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire despite taking bombardment from US and Afghan airstrikes.

Featured image of ex-general Abdul Wahid Khuram by Callum Cuddeford

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