For nearly two months, the city of Montpellier had been trying to repatriate an Afghan family to its territory.
Moved and relieved, a father, his wife and his ten children were finally able to land in the town of Hérault, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, under the flashes of journalists.
The epilogue of a grueling battle to say the least.
Back on these last weeks of anguish and hope.
This morning at 2:45 am, I had the honor to welcome @MPLaeroport the former mayor of Ghazni (#Afghanistan), Hakimullah Ghazniwal, and his family, threatened with death by the #talibans.
The completion of an 11-day journey of more than 8,000 kilometers.
The start of a new life.
- Michaël Delafosse (@MDelafosse) October 14, 2021
The case begins this summer, after the retake of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
On the morning of August 21, an email upset the town hall of Montpellier.
“I am the former mayor of Ghazni (…).
Today in Kabul, I am in an extremely difficult situation and ask for your emergency help to be able to leave the country with my family, ”writes the author of the email.
Behind these lines, Hakimullah Ghazniwal, former mayor of Ghazni, located 150 km from Kabul.
However, the man knows the town of Hérault well.
In 2003, the former elected official was even made an honorary citizen of Montpellier by the then mayor, Georges Frêche, who at the time wanted to consolidate the links between the two cities.
Faced with the return of the Taliban to his country, Hakimullah Ghazniwal asks to flee the regime in an emergency, with his wife, his seven children aged 28 to 16 and the wife of his eldest son.
"Our lives are in danger"
The cry for help could not go unanswered. On August 23, the town hall contacted the Quai d'Orsay while establishing a dialogue with the Ghazniwal family through the young Masihullah, 22, who manages his father's phone. "The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating every day and our lives are in danger because my father Hakimullah Ghazniwal worked in the Afghan government for many years and served his people," he explained in a WhatsApp message, according to France. Blue.
The leak promises to be complicated.
The City carefully compiles a file with as many elements as possible on all the members of the family.
The fate of the family goes back to the French embassy in Afghanistan, but the situation there is deteriorating.
On August 26, a suicide bombing at Kabul airport left 182 people dead.
The next day, France announced that it was ending its airlift, after evacuating 3,000 people, including 2,600 Afghans.
Kabul airport will close on August 31 after the departure of US troops.
The Ghazniwal family then remained in place, although they were on the French authorities' list of people to be evacuated.
The case back to Beauvau
The city of Montpellier is not discouraged and maintains contact, hoping to find a way to unblock the situation. She contacted the Open Society Foundations, a network of foundations working for democratic development, involved in Afghanistan. A solution seems to be emerging: the NGO plans to organize a flight for students that could accommodate 149 people from various destinations. Ten places are offered to the Ghazniwal family, with the sole condition of obtaining a visa or equivalent. The City of Montpellier is then active to obtain the precious sesames. All get it except Hasina, the wife of Abdullah, the eldest son of the family.
The Montpellier town hall then sends the file back to the Ministry of the Interior, which will finally give its approval on October 4.
The day before, the family left Kabul in the early morning in a bus to Mazar-e-Charif in northern Afghanistan from where the plane will depart.
Barely arrived, Hakimullah Ghazniwal and his relatives face a dozen Taliban who enter the boarding house where they are staying.
After long discussions with the owner, the tensions subside.
The family will finally board a Kam Air plane four days later.
Destination: North Macedonia.
A journey completed thanks to the MHB
Tired but relieved, the family finally set foot on Balkan soil on October 8, around 3 a.m.
She is welcomed in a hotel in Skopje, guided by members of the Red Cross.
Children and their parents will stay in their rooms while waiting for their visa.
Because the question of repatriation to France now arises.
A happy coincidence, Montpellier Handball (MHB) are playing their 4th Champions League match in Skopje.
In the process, the mayor of Montpellier Mickaël Delafosse contacted the president of MHB Julien Deljarry to inform him of the fate of the Afghan family.
The end of the journey is then announced: a delegation from the city of Montpellier goes in stride to Skopje.
The return is planned.
The ten Afghans were able to reach France safely with the players, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, aboard a plane chartered by the club.
Hakimullah Ghazniwal and his family landed in Montpellier, greeted by Mayor Michaël Delafosse, shortly before 3 a.m.
The completion of a journey of more than 8,000 km, punctuated by anguish and expectation.
The “start of a new life”, as Michaël Delafosse sums it up.