PARIS…The city of love.
But not for Khaled…
Khaled is 26 years old and from Afghanistan. During the war he worked for the British Army as an interpreter (he speaks perfect English), and then later, for the Americans, serving for five years in total.
After the British and the Americans left, the Taliban went looking for anyone who had worked for them, specifically targeting the interpreters. After receiving death threats from the Taliban, and knowing that they would catch, torture and kill him, Khaled was forced to flee Afghanistan, leaving his wife and children behind.
He knew he had no choice, and that the journey ahead was a dangerous one…
He went through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Italy before arriving in France.
He now lives in Paris…
When tribe member Brendan Woodhouse met Khaled, he didn’t have even a tent. He was sleeping rough with many others, under a metro bridge in the city. Depressed, lonely, but above all, missing his family terribly.
Brendan spoke to him for about an hour, and explained that he himself had travelled to Afghanistan with the British Army. As he hadn’t left Camp Bastion, all he had to say about Afghanistan is that it was very hot and pretty dusty.
The two of them quickly formed a mutual respect as they discussed their time in the army. Khaled showed Brendan his Green Card and Brendan showed him photographs, to which Khaled responded that he loved the British Soldiers he had met.
Khaled told Brendan that when he began working for the Americans, his vehicle was blown up by and IED (Improvised Explosive Device), and that his commander was killed in the explosion. He showed Brendan his scars. He now walks with a limp as a result of the explosion.
Before Brendan left, he gave Khaled a sleeping bag, a blanket and a tent to sleep in. It was nothing but Khaled smiled as wide as could be and hugged Brendan so tightly, in an embrace Brendan says he will never forget.
Brendan had saved these items from Khaled especially…after all, he had helped our soldiers, it was the least he could do in return.
As Brendan drove away with a big lump in his throat, he watched as Khaled showed his new belongings to his friends. He opened up the little pop up two man tent in a celebratory fashion, and looked inside like he was gazing upon a mansion.
Brendan felt the tears coming… There was one of his brothers, celebrating the fact that he’d been given a tent. A fucking tent!
So, Brendan drove home to England, and Khaled stayed in Paris, in his tent, which he now shares with two friends.
The camp in Stalingrad Metro Station where they live, alongside about 500 other people, is hell on earth. Trains roar overhead at regular intervals, and busy roads surround the camp on every side.
There are a few toilets, but not enough, and they are overflowing to the point of almost being unusable. The smell is unbearable.
Trickles of shit roll back to where these few hundred people sleep, on cardboard boxes, and the occasional mattress. Most people had a blanket, but some don’t. Food is brought to them once a day by some lovely kind Parisians (in inhumanity are the best humanitarians).
The whole place stinks, like a cross between faeces, cigarettes, traffic fumes and despair.
Not long after Brendan left Khaled, he was run over by a car, which shattered his already damaged foot. These accidents are inevitable in such dangerous conditions. He spent eleven days and nights in hospital receiving treatment, but he’ll never walk properly again.
Khaled told Brendan that he dreamt of making it to England in the back of a lorry, but this new injury make this dream even further from becoming a reality.
The last time Brendan spoke to Khaled, he was standing on a bridge, overlooking the canal, considering his options…
It was one of the darkest conversations Brendan has ever had.
Khaled explained that he can see no reason for living any more. He can’t go back, and he can’t go forward. He is stuck in hell.
“What is this life for me? He asked Brendan. “Every day, the police beat me, and for why? I have done nothing wrong. I have no place to go. Maybe if I die, it will be better.”
Brendan promised Khaled he would tell his story, in an attempt to spread awareness of this suffering. This is one person’s story, but he represents thousands of others experiencing the same struggle.
Khaled is a modern day hero. In order to protect his family he left them, travelling incredible distances, mainly on foot (despite his injuries). But now he finds himself in Paris, the city of love, on the street, under a railway bridge with piss flowing into his blankets as he sleeps.
His endurance knows no bounds and his courage to face each day is immense.
I just hope he keeps going.
Khaled risked his life for us in Afghanistan. How have we deserted him now?
Khaled, I know you’ll read this…..stay strong, my brother, many people support you.
For those of you reading this, please leave messages of support for Khaled in the comments, it’s the least we can do.