I fled the hell of Afghanistan… only to find the enemy in Britain: A brave interpreter who risked death on SAS missions reveals how he discovered Islamist extremists in the UK spouting the very hatred he thought he’d left behind
- Eddie Idrees was one of top interpreters for British Army working in Afghanistan
- He was denounced as infidel, traitor & pimp – the worst curse in Afghan society
- He learned that Taliban ideology has become embedded in British communities
- Describes withdrawal from British society as the biggest problem for Muslims
At a meeting in a run-down cafe in London, Michael, now calling himself Mohammed, is in full flow.
An Irishman with a shining moon-face fringed by an orange beard, he exudes all the joy and intensity of the religious convert as he romanticises an ideology he barely comprehends.
Discovering that I am not only an Afghan but one just arrived from Afghanistan, he is delighted at the chance to commune with, as he sees it, another of the world’s most oppressed peoples.
He warms to his theme, exhorting me to return home to fight for the Taliban and liberate my country from the infidel. I’m used to this. I recently had a blazing row with some of my own extended family who whined on about how things were better under the Taliban, and how a woman’s honour was safer.
What nonsense! Women across Afghanistan are persecuted and punished and abused.
All my life I have struggled to bring my homeland into the modern world, battling against blind tradition and religious ignorance. That is why I took a job as one of the top interpreters for the British Army in Afghanistan as its soldiers endeavoured to bring peace and stability to my benighted country.
Special forces interpreter Eddie Idrees with a comrade in Afghanistan on Operations
Interpreters like me were the forgotten heroes in the war against terrorism there. We stood in the middle between all the parties, domestic and international, who fought to contain and defeat the Taliban.
I risked death on more than 500 front-line operations, first with the U.S. Special Forces and then, from 2009 to 2012, the British SAS. On dangerous missions I would be there on the ground listening in to Taliban radio transmissions for information about their movements and then interrogating any prisoners we took.
As a result, I was denounced as an infidel, a spy, traitor and pimp — the worst curse there is in Afghan society. I lived under the threat of death from religious, tribal and political factions until the point came when I was forced to flee to the UK.
Only to discover that the same war I fought in Afghanistan against ignorance, prejudice and evil has insinuated itself here. Wellsprings of terror can be found on housing estates in Britain. In what I believed to be a rational country — and one that I love — I have found a deep and dark ignorance among Afghan and other immigrants in the Muslim, Asian community.
I do my best to counter it. I tell recently arrived immigrants they didn’t struggle across thousands of miles only to be told what to do by another idiot with a beard. But far too many remain trapped in a ghetto mentality that is depressing and dangerous.
It was once my dream to fight for a free Afghanistan. Now I am continuing the fight for what I believe in — only this time it’s against Islamic extremism in the United Kingdom.
My father, a colonel in the Afghan army before he was forced into exile in Pakistan — where I grew up and learned English, before moving back to Afghanistan in my late teens — hated the Taliban, and so do I.
They are insurgents and terrorists whose objective is to bring a barbaric rule to Afghanistan and Pakistan, install Sharia law and implement their rules and policies of killing and violence.
Their leaders are mostly uneducated. They don’t believe in science or research but in barbaric law and patriarchy.
They believe women are basically slaves whose sole purpose is to serve men. They must not be educated and have to be escorted by a male wherever they go.
Almost all Taliban operations are cowardly. They slaughter toddlers, pregnant women, old men, the deaf, the blind. Last year they attacked a maternity clinic in Kabul murdering dozens of pregnant women, mothers who had just given birth and babies who were one hour or one day old.
I saw their callous indifference at first-hand on a night raid when I and my SAS comrades climbed the mud-brick outer wall of a suspected Taliban compound. From the top I shouted down: ‘You are surrounded! Come out unarmed with your hands up!’
A door in a building slowly opened and three figures appeared. Through my night-vision goggles I could see that the lead terrorist was armed and wearing chest webbing. But I froze as I saw our snipers’ dots on his head, just above the sleepy, squirming figure of the little girl he was holding in front of him.
‘Put her down! Drop your weapons!’ I called out, but all he did was lift her up and turn towards me. The snipers shot him and she fell with her father. Covered in blood, she lay half under his lifeless body.
An unidentified Taliban fighter holds his RPG7 rocket launcher on patrol on the front-line
Anger was boiling within me as I dropped down into the compound and ran to her. In my mind she stood for all the kids trodden underfoot by the Taliban. All the kids whose future they betrayed. All the innocent Afghans killed in schools, universities and in their homes.
My hands moved quickly over her face to clear the blood. She squirmed and cried but she was alive. I could see no sign of a bullet entry but my fear was that she was bleeding to death from a wound under her clothes. I took her in my arms and raced to find a medic, who examined her, and, to my relief, pronounced her unhurt.
I was overcome with disgust for her father. How could he have been willing to sacrifice his own daughter? Fathers are supposed to protect their children, to die protecting them if necessary. But Taliban terrorists like him have no mercy and no humanity.
They routinely abuse and rape women and force children into marriage. After another raid on a Taliban compound, I was interrogating the members of a family and told one white-bearded old man — 70 years old at least and barely able to walk — that his answers did not tally with those given by his granddaughter.
He denied having a granddaughter and when I pointed out the girl in question, he got really offended and angry as he said: ‘That is my wife.’ She was 11 years old.
I was sad for this kid who was being raped by this old man. Taliban girls like her are abused on a daily basis, not only by their husbands, but their brothers, father and so on. They suffer from the day they open their eyes to the day they die.
For all these reasons, I came to the conclusion that taking them alive only meant they would go through the corrupt Afghan judicial system and almost always end up being released back onto the street to kill again.
The Taliban were not the only enemies I made in Afghanistan. Among the authorities and the local anti-terrorist forces, there was widespread corruption, which I refused to go along with.
When the Afghan police set up its own special security unit along the same lines as the SAS, recruits were taken on through patronage rather than rigorous selection courses and senior officers siphoned off the men’s pay into their own pockets.
After I denounced this, I heard that some in the police force were threatening to shoot me. I then got a not-very-subtle call from a very senior officer reminding me that my father, mother and brother were living outside the army base and were vulnerable. Also that one day the British and American forces would leave and ‘will not be there to protect you’.
That was when I really got scared. I desperately wanted to stay and serve the people of Afghanistan but at that moment I knew I would have to leave. And not just me but my whole family.
Because of my work for the U.S. Army, I was entitled to U.S. citizenship but I did not want to go to America. I opted for the UK. The SAS had asked me to go to Britain to help train its soldiers about to go on tour in Afghanistan. I took up the offer, obtained a visa and in 2012 flew to England.
But I found the training role not to my taste. My methods were considered too aggressive and loud. There was talk of me returning to Afghanistan when this assignment was over but I now knew for sure that I couldn’t go back.
Even my SAS mates warned me not to. I was a marked man, they told me.
Mortars fire off over the perimeter of Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, to deter and deceive insurgent forces
After applying for asylum in the UK, I was put in a detention centre before a decision was made on my case.
Being held in detention proved a valuable lesson. I had been labouring under a delusion that Afghans who had emigrated here would be more enlightened because they had escaped the ignorance and prejudice of home. They would have absorbed the best that the West had to offer. They would be wise, progressive and tolerant.
Two days in detention shredded that belief.
When I told other Afghans at the facility that I had worked for the British in Afghanistan, they were outraged and shouted at me that I was a traitor and the worst kind of infidel. One of them threatened: ‘If I ever catch you and I can get away with it, I will hang you by the tongue for what you did.’
They hated Britain, which dumbfounded me. ‘So why are you trying to claim asylum here?’ I demanded to know, but I never got an answer. It was clear to me that they knew nothing of the UK and its culture apart from what they had learned in their closed, small communities. They believed in myths; rumours rather than facts.
I ran into the same ignorance when, shortly afterwards, I was accepted into the asylum process and sent, by the Home Office, to live in Glasgow. There I was housed with a succession of other asylum-seekers and introduced to Glasgow’s Afghan community.
When I told them I had been an interpreter in Afghanistan, they too were insane with rage. They fantasised about Afghanistan under the Taliban, claiming ‘our women were safe there’. To which I would say, ‘Why are you here then? Just go back if you really believe that.’
When I told them how things really were in Afghanistan, they refused even to discuss it. They bore their ignorance like a badge of honour. They believed only Taliban propaganda.
The Home Office dragged its feet over my asylum request but finally it was approved and I got my papers. The feeling of relief was incredible. I tried several jobs in different places before settling in a city not far from London.
Interpreting mostly for Afghans and Pakistanis, I saw some terrible cases, involving domestic violence, rape, child abuse, drug dealing and smuggling. But I was also alarmed at how the Taliban ideology I thought I had left behind had become embedded in these communities.
Men in Afghanistan won’t let their women talk directly to a man, and they’ve brought something of the same culture here. So when I was translating for women visiting the doctor, I first had to translate what the doctor said to the husband, for him to repeat to his wife, who was sitting next to him.
And then whatever his wife said, the husband had to repeat it to me, then I would say it in English to the doctor. Unbelievable!
One day I was translating for an Afghan woman who had been here for only a few weeks. Her father-in-law was with her. The nurse asked her if she was happy, to which she replied in Pashto: ‘No.’ Before I could speak, he said to her: ‘You can’t say that in front of them, or you will suffer when we get home.’
What I find sad is that being out of Afghanistan gives these women and girls an opportunity to break free from the old ways, but unfortunately they continue to be oppressed.
Nor is it just women who continue to be forced into line. Young men arriving here from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are fostered by Muslim families, without any choice on their part, and packed off to the mosque to be introduced to the imam.
A Pakistani boy I met was being fostered by a Pakistani family and complained he was being forced to learn Arabic in a private madrassa (an Islamic school), and wasn’t being taught English.
This particular foster family was constantly the focus of complaints from their charges for the way they abused them, including not feeding them enough, despite the large amounts of money they received from the council.
When the council went to the local mosque to discuss this, the very first thing the mullah said was: ‘Of course we all hate you. You’re bombing our countries!’ There was no question of debate.
In my view this wilful withdrawal from British society is the biggest problem facing Muslim communities in Britain. It is often reinforced by the fact that imams are nearly always recruited from Pakistan or Arab countries and are woefully backward, and deeply prejudiced against Britain and the West.
I once asked an imam in Afghanistan what qualified him for that position. He said it was because his father had been one, and he had been to a madrassa in Pakistan to train.
The only book this particular mullah had read was the Quran, with the interpretation made up by senior Taliban, tailored to benefit their propaganda.
I find this ghetto mentality and the group paranoia that goes with it appalling and I refuse to accept its existence as a given. I am determined to confront it, to shake people out of their apathy, to make them think beyond their self-imposed prison, to stop them denying their children the opportunities that this country has to offer.
It doesn’t help that many in Britain encourage this terrible abuse in the name of multiculturalism. They aren’t doing anyone any favours. They are allowing yet another generation to have their minds warped because they don’t know any better and to become fodder for the extremists’ crazy war.
- Adapted from Special Forces Interpreter by Eddie Idrees, published by Pen & Sword at £19.99. Copyright © 2021 Eddie Idrees. To order a copy for £17.79 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. Promotional price valid until 22/05/2021.
* Eddie Idrees is a pseudonym. He now has a degree in psychology and a masters in international security and terrorism.
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