A former ally of Australian troops in Afghanistan now plans to pay people smugglers to take him to Australia.
Ghulam Sakhi fled from his home province of Uruzgan to Kabul two years ago, fearing for his life. The Taliban were back and it was no longer safe for him and his family to live there. He plans to sell his remaining assets to raise the $30,000 needed to pay the people smugglers.
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“We had to guard our villages day and night,” he says, referring to life back in Uruzgan.
“During the day we had to keep a lookout with glasses that see far away and during the night we were guarding the houses from the Taliban.”
The former mujahideen commander who had been fighting the Taliban for years knew he had to leave Uruzgan after his younger brother was arrested and imprisoned by local Taliban. They demanded a ransom and said if he did not pay his brother would be killed.
“We escaped after they threw my younger brother off the roof of a house. Now he has a broken back and we have spent all our money on his operations,” Sakhi says.
He still had to pay the kidnappers $US22,000 to free his now-crippled brother.
Sakhi is from the Hazara ethnic minority who have been persecuted by the Pashtuns for centuries. However, the major issue is his recent involvement with American and Australian forces in the province.
For more than a year Sakhi worked as a security guard on the US Special Forces base in the district centre of Khas Uruzgan. His job included accompanying troops on operations.
He proudly tells the Herald that when he was there they were never defeated and that the Australian and US soldiers were very good.
“In Sag Tangi area we killed 35 Taliban, Qalataq we killed four, in Nawaishali seven, in Qadamshali 11.”
He recalls more than 60 Taliban casualties and also that Khas Uruzgan was badly bombed during this time. Many more people were arrested.
“Sometimes 10, sometimes two, every few days, they could be Taliban or civilians by mistake.”
As a fighter Sakhi earned $240 a month but realised he could earn much more running a construction company building bridges and government buildings for the US military. This is where he made the money to pay for his brother’s ransom and operations. But now it is all gone.
All that is left are a couple of trucks he plans to sell so he can pay people smugglers to take him to Australia.
Sakhi now lives in a small room in south Kabul with his wife, Gulalai, and four young children. They survive on the $50 a month he earns from working as a day labourer. Here the family is safe but face life in poverty. They can barely afford bread and have no money for luxuries.
“Life is very difficult for us, there’s not enough milk for the children, so I need to buy powdered milk but we don’t have enough money for that,” Gulalai says. “So sometimes we’re just boiling water for them.”
Sakhi is well aware of the risks he faces. He knows that the boats the smugglers use might sink and that the Australian government have deported many Afghans recently, but he is determined to go anyway.
“I want to get out of this country and I will do it with people smugglers,” he says. “I will try to go to Australia.”
He is confident that the country whose soldiers and allies he fought alongside will help him now that their common enemy has forced him to flee.
“The reason is I have very strong documents from the Australian government and I have very strong documents from America,” Sakhi says. ”Once I get there I can tell them what I’ve done for them and that’s why my life is in danger.”
The former district governor of Khas Uruzgan, Haji Salari, verifies that Sakhi worked with the Special Forces.
“Sakhi was working with the Special Forces at Anaconda in Kas Uruzgan. He has now moved here [to Kabul]as a refugee like me because he is a friend of the government and an enemy of the enemy,” Salari says.
“If some leader of the Taliban killed nine or 10 people, chopped off their heads, that was a clear message that no one is allowed to spy for other people in the Taliban areas.
”That was a clear message from the Taliban side.
”What do you think about a person who worked with the Australian and Americans, a person who built the district governor’s house, bridges and other things?
”How will they survive?”