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Mandurah man’s desperate effort to escape war-torn Afghanistan with his ten children

Mandurah man and Wow Kebabs owner Khan Khakasar and his family stranded in Afghanistan.

WARNING: This article contains confronting information and details that some readers may find distressing.

A WA father-of-ten has pleaded with the Australian Government to help him return home after getting stuck in war-torn Afghanistan as the Taliban took control.

In a Skeer News exclusive, Mandurah man Khan Khakasar has detailed his desperation and limbo, which is filled with complications, serious safety concerns and visa issues, as he tries to flee the danger.

Mr Khakasar, part owner of Wow Kebabs, a fast food outlet in the Smart Sreet Mall, waited for three days at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul as he tried to flee Afghanistan after being in touch with Australian Government bodies. 

“Three days, night and day, we wait there [in] a bad situation outside the airport,” Mr Khakasar said.

“You get tired and you hold a baby with you, it’s a very hard situation.

“There were more than 200,000 people just waiting to enter the airport. With the way they were going, it was too hard.

“We contacted Australian soldier and they told us to wait there but people were pushing each other, my kids were under their feet and I [pulled them back].

“We tried very hard but we couldn’t [sucessfully] meet any Australian soldier.”

Mr Khakasar said he went to visit family members in Afghanistan before the Taliban’s takeover and had return flights booked for August 11th. 

However, his travel agent, a Melbourne based company, told him the flight had been moved to the 13th and was eventually cancelled due to Coronavirus restrictions. 

In an email to Australian Home Affairs, Mr Khakasar said he forwarded documents about his circumstances and need for help. 

“They didn’t send me any email back or any answer,” he said. 

“I’m stuck here, I don’t know what I can do. The situation is very bad.” 

Mr Khakasar’s 26-year-old twin daughters and his 14-year-old boy, the eldest of the ten, are Australian citizens with expired passports. 

The rest of Mr Khakasar’s children, the youngest a three-year-old girl, are not Australian citizens. 

“I need an emergency visa for my kids, I have a passport but I need for my kids,” he said. 

“When I contact the lady from the foreign ministry, they tell me that I can take all dependent children to the airport and [they] can come and [they] can issue an emergency visa inside Kabul Aiport.”

The journey to the airport is a mission in itself with the effort involving a trip through a dirty river that Mr Khakasar says he had to carry his baby through.  

“It was a very hard place to go down to the river and stay all day and night,” Mr Khakasar described.

“It’s really hard to explain on the telephone because you can go to the river and stay in the river and after you stay in the water and you hold the baby in that.

“it’s not for one, two, five or 10 hours, it’s all day and night. It’s very hard, how can you stay.

“You can’t stand forever.” 

Mr Khakasar and his younger children.

Mr Khakasar claimes at one point, non-Australian soldiers wouldn’t let him reach Australian authorities after travelling through the river waters. 

“After [travelling through] the water you can go up, on the top of the river, on one side the soldier[s] all stand. The river wall is about three and a half metres up,” he explained.

“I went there, to the top, and one soldier pushed me back and threw me into the water.

“My leg was nearly broken. I nearly lost my passport.”  

Assistant minister of defence and member for Canning Andrew Hastie told Skeer News that although the evacuation operations from HKIA had stopped, Australian’s should have confidence in the process. 

“My office, like those of MPs and Senators across the nation, received a huge number of requests for assistance both during and since the evacuation effort, we referred all requests to Home Affairs – and that is a process which is open and ongoing,” the minister for defence and member for Canning said. 

“This was a dangerous mission under challenging circumstances, and was one of the largest humanitarian airlift operations in our history.

“People can have confidence in the process and that legitimate claims will continue to be processed. 

“While the evacuation effort at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has concluded, Australia will continue our efforts to repatriate citizens and visa holders as well as humanitarian cases from Afghanistan, including working with our coalition partners.”

WA man and Wow Kebabs owner Khan Khakasar outside his shop in Mandurah in November 2020 . Photo: Tex Reeks/ Skeer News

Mr Khakasar’s relatives were caught up in the suicide bombing outside Abbey Gate of HKIA as they tried to flee for the United Kingdom on August 26. 

“When the bomb [exploaded] blood [went] on their faces and boots,” he said

“They were lucky, none of them [were killed]. 

Their only injury was a piece of shrapnel that cut one of their fingers.

“You could see dead body in the water.” Mr Khakasar said. 

According to the Australian Associated Press, two blasts rocked the area which injured dozens and killed more than 85 people, including 13 US troops, 27 Afghans, and 28 members of the Taliban.  

Skeer News contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment, who then recommended we send our enquiries to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Skeer News they couldn’t provide details on individual cases but explained they were in contact with Australian’s still in Afghanistan.

“The Department remains in contact with Australians, permanent residents and immediate family members registered with DFAT in Afghanistan, keeping them up to date on security risks. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide comment on individual cases,” the DFAT spokesperson said. 

“We are also in close consultation with our international partners on options available to those who wish to leave, including civilian air operations and commercial flights from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“Our top priority was to evacuate Australians, visa holders and former locally engaged employees. We understand this is a distressing time for many people in Afghanistan and here in Australia.

“The situation in Afghanistan remains highly volatile. Australians are advised to stay in a safe location and follow the travel advice.”

Australia’s military air evacuation operation in Afghanistan was one of the largest humanitarian airlift operations in the country’s history, with about 4,100 people rescued on 32 flights from Kabul between 18 and 26 August.

The operation comes after the Taliban took over the Afghan government as foreign forces, including US troops, who withdrew from the 20-year-war which started in 2001. 

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani swiftly fled the country on August 15, and within hours, the Taliban had taken over the presidential palace, which left Afghans scrambling in fear.

Many rushed to the airport and borders in a bid to escape a life of potential violence and anarchy.  

In a statement posted to social media on September 8, the former Afghan president said it was never his plan to abandoned his people but he had to leave. 

“I left at the urging of the palace security who advised me that to remain risked setting off the same horrific street to street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s,” the former president wrote. 

“Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believed it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens.

Mr Ghani denied claims he fled with millions of dollars and welcomed an audit from the United Nations. 

​​”I must now address baseless allegations that as I left Kabul I took with me millions of dollars belonging to the Afghan people,” he said.

“These charges are completely and categorically false. Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a central focus in my efforts as president.”

The Taliban Government now runs Afghanistan, and last week, women in Kabul protested that they would not accept a government with no female ministers.

As for Mr Khakasar, he remains in a location several hours away from HKIA with his family, as he restlessly waits for help and his return to Australia. 

“I need some help, to come back to Australia,” Mr Khakasar said.

“I need to come as soon as possible, I need to pay my mortgage.”  

Australians, permanent residents and immediate family members in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with DFAT and follow the travel advice here at DFAT.

Australians in need of consular assistance should contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 (outside Australia) or 1300 555 135 (in Australia).

Follow journalist Tex Reeks on Twitter @texreeks.

Tex Reeks

Texas (Tex) Reeks is a video journalist and national award-winning news photographer. Reeks' dedication and commitment to local news media and telling stories has seen him build an extensive portfolio in Western Australia's news industry from a young age. Writing online stories and covering news events for Perth's mainstream media networks, Reeks, has covered and broken some of WA's biggest breaking news stories including shark attacks, police manhunts, plane crashes, major crime investigations, and major political incidents. Reeks' interest and knowledge in criminology and policing results in his focus on crime and court stories.
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