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Afghan Chevening scholar tells of journey to UK

A recipient of the UK government’s prestigious Chevening scholarship has described his journey from Afghanistan, after British prime minister Boris Johnson stepped in to ensure visas for awardees were fast-tracked.

Naimatullah arrived in the UK with his wife, four children and elderly parents to study at the University of Sussex. Photo: Naimatullah Zafary

"A better world demands better educated and more responsible citizens"

He was in a group which braved the tumult of people desperate to leave the country to force slow, arduous progress towards the airport.

Writing for HEPI, Naimatullah Zafary – one of nine of the 35 scholars who have arrived in the UK to study at the University of Sussex – arrived with his family on one of the last few flights to the country from Kabul.

On August 23 – having unsuccessfully attempted to reach the airport the previous day – a group of Chevening scholars tried again to reach the point where British soldiers were based.

“As we were around 36 people – all Cheveners and dependents – we made a human chain of our hands with men and younger people on the outside and, within the circle, the women, children and elderly,” the 36-year old wrote.

“When the British soldier finally pulled us into the airport… we hugged one another like brothers”

“And so we began our walk to safety. The pull, push and halt felt like an almost impossible endeavour.”

Zafary’s daughter struggled to breathe and began to scream, he continued.

“I put her on my shoulders and she stayed there for hours as I moved forward, putting water on her head when I could. Every few metres gained, I would ask the people near me how long it would that from here. Those in the crowd said it was their fourth or fifth night.”

The group eventually arrived to where British soldiers were stationed.

“But our movement as one connected unit allowed us to make progress and, after three hours, we finally reached the point where British soldiers could stretch out their hands to us and pull us out of the pool – the same one that two days later would be filled with the blood of the victims of the airport blast that killed soldiers and Afghans alike,” he said.

“When the British soldier finally pulled us into the airport, I kissed his shoulder and we hugged one another like brothers.”

All the scholars share a belief in the importance of education, coming from Afghanistan – where the literacy rate is only around 35%, he added.

“A better world demands better educated and more responsible citizens,” Zafary wrote.

“The UK is a multicultural society, in which the ideal is that I may form respectful relationships and friendship with all. In doing so, as well as studying for my degree as a Chevening Scholar, I will learn about a new country, about my friends and myself.”

The Afghan scholars had been told the British embassy in Kabul was “unable to administer the parts of the program that must be done in Kabul in time for candidates to begin their courses this year”, before Johnson intervened.

Read the full article here.

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