Former translators demand protection for Afghans at Parliament Square protest

Dozens of demonstrators have gathered at Parliament Square to protest over how the Government has handled supporting citizens in Afghanistan after the Taliban launched a takeover of the country.

The protesters, who are former translators for the British Army, held banners and signs up in front of Parliament on Wednesday as MPs returned to the House of Commons after it was recalled.

Signs they held included images of people gravely injured in Afghanistan, with the caption “Protect our loved ones”.

One former interpreter, who only gave his name as Rafi, told the PA news agency: “Today we are representing all those employees of the British Government in Afghanistan who have served the British forces.

“Today, their lives are at a very high risk, them and their families, and our families, they need protection and safety.

“The Taliban will butcher every single one of them if they are left behind.”

He added: “The Afghan nation feels betrayed and let down. They deserved better. The Americans took the rug from under our feet and left the nation with no protection, no safety and under the control of the same terrorists that we started fighting 20 years ago.”

A separate protest was also held earlier in Parliament Square, called Stop the War.

The campaign group was there demanding that politicians recognise that the war in Afghanistan was a catastrophe and must not be repeated.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attended the protest, as did his brother Piers, although the pair appeared at different points.

Labour MP Richard Burgon joined Jeremy Corbyn at the protest.

Jeremy Corbyn, an Independent MP, tweeted: “Joined @STWuk and other campaigners outside Parliament this morning to demand support for Afghan refugees and no more disastrous wars.”

Later on at Parliament Square, hundreds of Gurkhas are expected to arrive and hold a separate protest.

They are calling for equal pensions for Gurkhas who retired before 1997 but are not eligible for a full UK armed forces pension.

Mujtaba, who was an interpreter from 2005 to 2010 in Afghanistan for the British armed forces, said he felt he had a lucky escape as he managed to move his family to the UK a month before the takeover.

Mujtaba, who only gave his first name as he still has two brothers in Afghanistan, described how he moved to the UK in 2010 after his job finished with the British Army but was granted settlement for his family last month.

He told the PA news agency: “I said to my parents, my family, my friends that I am the luckiest person that I came out of Afghanistan with my family and my children.

“The situation in Afghanistan is not good. Lots of our family, friends and colleagues have been left behind.

“When I see everything going on, it makes me sad. I’m sad for them all. But it’s not just me – everyone around the world is worried about the situation in Afghanistan.

“My colleagues, my friends, my two brothers who worked for eight years for the British armed forces in Helmand province and they’ve been left behind.”

Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer (Liam McBurney/PA)

Tory MP Johnny Mercer visited Parliament Square shortly before 1pm where he met members of the protest.

He told PA: “I’m here because I support these guys and what they’re trying to do to get a better resettlement policy for Afghan interpreters. I always try to come down and see what they’re doing.”

Discussing the Government’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan, he said: “It was dreadful for a long time.

“Many people here have been trying to change the policy for seven years. Now we’re changing it, we’re getting there, but I hope it’s not too late and we can bring home as many people as we possibly can.”