One of the most haunting images from the horror show of the Taliban retaking Afghanistan was a fleeting glimpse of a mother and her little girls in a car about to flee Kabul.
The terror and fear in their eyes – especially the mum – was heartbreaking.
She knows what lies in wait for them with the Taliban again in power. Women forced out of whatever job they hold – be it brain surgeon or shop worker – and only allowed to leave home with written permission.
Her daughters’ hopes of an education and a life of freedom evaporating as the Taliban’s merciless fist closes.
All that, plus the beatings, whippings, stonings, or beheadings for anyone found guilty of any transgressions under the Taliban’s brutal idea of justice.
Little wonder they were fleeing, but I couldn’t help wonder where to?
In a matter of days, all that hope turned to dust. The Afghan people are staring into an abyss – especially those who worked with UK forces
The answer is obvious.
Here. To these shores. We owe them that.
The UK must do everything it can to give Afghans refuge
The UK has spent 20 years shoulder-to-shoulder with US troops in Afghanistan, first ousting the Taliban, ending a regime that gave succour to terrorists, then helping the Afghan people rebuild their shattered country.
It was a drive that gave hope for the future, a dream of democracy and equality. For women, especially, it was about empowerment and taking their place as equals to drive a modern society forward.
Then the US and UK walked away from Afghanistan. In a matter of days, all that hope turned to dust. The Afghan people are staring into an abyss – especially those who worked with UK forces.
It would be morally repugnant to turn our backs on them and leave them to their fate.
This is why the UK Government must do everything in its power to give as many vulnerable Afghans as possible safe refuge. It should, at the very least, follow the lead of Canada which has announced it will accept 20,000 Afghan refugees, including journalists, women, members of the LGTBQ community, and interpreters.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already said, without hesitation, that Scotland stands ready to do what it can to help these refugees. Westminster must do the same.
Drown out xenophobia with reason
Yet the weary drumbeat of anti-refugee rhetoric is starting up in the usual quarters with the same tired nonsense.
Apparently “we are full”, “we don’t want any more freeloaders” – oh, and the usual thing about “let other countries take them”.
It’s heartless drivel driven by xenophobia. Sadly, it’s the sort of hateful rubbish that catches the ear of some of the Westminster Tory elite, who has an eye to populism as a means to keep a grip on power.
When – not if – Afghan people choose Scotland as their new home, let’s welcome them as friends and neighbours
There is, of course, an antidote to this toxic minority. Drown it out with the voice of reason.
Let’s leave the politicians in power in no doubt that we have a duty to help the Afghan people fearing for their lives. Tell them we want the doors pushed wide open and a lifeline thrown to those who need it, without delay or equivocation.
When – not if – Afghan people choose Scotland as their new home, let’s welcome them as friends and neighbours.
The West lit a beacon of hope for the people of Afghanistan – it can and must still shine brightly for them in this country.