Afghan Chevening Scholar Evacuated to UK

A Chevening scholar who has been successfully airlifted out of Afghanistan and arrived in the UK said that while she is relieved to have escaped the “hell” of a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, she is anxious that her experience and trauma might affect her education here.

26-year-old Afsana Hamidy successfully arrived at Birmingham airport in Wednesday (Aug 25). Hamidy, a recipient of one of the UK’s prestigious Chevening scholarships, will be pursuing her master’s in inclusive education at Roehampton University in London.“I have worked for almost two years to get this scholarship. This is the only thing that has given me hope for the future,” she said. “But I’m not sure how my studies will go with the mental situation that I have right now. It’s not easy to forget what has happened overnight.

“I have excitement in my heart but I’m nervous about my country, my friends and all the people who I left behind. I have a punishment feeling for myself because I left for a richer, safe country, but I couldn’t help others.”

A total of 35 Chevening scholars are due to be evacuated out of Afghanistan as Taliban rule takes over the country. The scholarship funds one-year master’s degrees at UK universities.

Several of these scholars are still thought to be stuck in Kabul, including one student who expressed disappointment that the UK hadn’t provided more assistance to recipients. “As a Chevening scholar, they promised to evacuate us but they have left as alone at this hard time.”

The student now believes that his scholarship status has made him a target of the Taliban. He has sent several videos from home security cameras showing the Taliban visiting his home.“They are searching for me as they believe I promoted the UK’s culture and their agendas, and that I am their trained person.”

While the student claims to have received a relocation pass from the British embassy. violence surrounding the Kabul airport made it impossible for him to reach on Wednesday for extraction.

Earlier this month the Foreign Office announced that it would be blocking Chevening scholars from claiming their UK government-sponsored scholarships, saying that they wouldn’t be able to process the recipients’ visas in time due to political unrest in Afghanistan. Hamidy reported that the announcement left her feeling “traumatized and stressful”. She echoed sentiments that she felt targeted by the Taliban due to their opposition to women’s education.

“When the Taliban took over the country it was like a hell. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t make decisions. All I could think about was how I’m going to get past the gates,” she said.

When Hamidy was evacuated on Wednesday she was huddled onto an aircraft with 600-700 other passengers. “We were all sitting on the ground of the aircraft so it was too crowded, too uncomfortable. As I was sat on the plane, I was thinking that I missed the time when I was able to travel humanly, not like this,” she said.

When she arrived in the UK she was required to quarantine for 10 days under current covid regulations. While there Hamidy said she was overwhelmed by the messages of public support she received.

“I didn’t imagine that the UK people would welcome me so warmly. I was afraid, I didn’t know how I would feel. Will the UK become my home, my second country, or not?” she said. “But since yesterday, the messages that I have received from all of you, especially from people on Twitter, their warm welcome and their nice attitudes makes this somehow feel like home.

“But I do have concern about my friends, my colleagues, the world where I have lived for a long time. Their lives are in danger, so I’m nervous about them and their future,” she said, adding she was particularly worried for young girls and families financially supported by women. “If they are not allowed to continue working, then I really don’t know what will happen.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have been assisting this year’s Afghan Chevening scholars to leave the country and they have begun arriving in the UK.”

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