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Embassy guard on Finns' departure: "We will not forgive them"

On Monday Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto described embassy guards as "sub-contractors' sub-contractors".

Vartijat seisovat vihreän vyöhykkeen portin edessä Kabulissa, Afganistanissa.
File photo of guards standing in front of a green zone gate in Kabul, Afghanistan, where many foreign embassies are located. Image: Wakil Kohsar / AFP
Yle News

Guards from the Finnish embassy in Kabul said they were desperate for evacuation on Monday, as the Taliban rejected the idea of extending the 31 August deadline for American withdrawal.

The guards were told last week they would not be on the list of those evacuated from Afghanistan as western embassies shut down and staff were pulled out.

Yle News spoke to a guard who said it was a complete shock when Finnish staff were evacuated from the embassy and they were left behind.

"They just said it is the responsibility of your company, not us," said the guard by phone from Kabul. "I have worked with them for seven years, some of us for ten years, they don't care."

"Since they [the Taliban] came to Kabul we have hidden in our homes."

Yle is not naming the guard because of the security threats he currently faces.

Evacuation lists

Finland has evacuated more than a hundred people, including Finnish citizens and embassy staff, but the guards who provided security at the embassy are not on the list of those to be flown out.

They were employed through a local firm, and on Monday Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) had said that it was not possible to extend the list to "sub-contractors' sub-contractors".

The guards said they were employed in visible roles, offering security to Finnish diplomats and politicians in Afghanistan, and are even more at risk than some of those directly employed by the Finnish state.

"When they were going to the other embassies, or they had some meetings, we were escorting them," said the guard. "Behind and front, we were with them all the time. Whenever they were going somewhere we prepared the guards for them and escorted them."

Other western countries have made similar decisions, with local staff employed by sub-contractors — often the arrangement for security guards — left off evacuation lists.

They have faced heavy criticism and on Friday the United Kingdom announced that it had reversed its decision not to grant visas to embassy guards from Kabul.

Yle has seen the guards' IDs and references. A Finn who worked in Kabul confirmed their authenticity and told Yle the guards "kept us alive and made it possible for us to do our work".

Sub-contracting security

They are employed by a sub-contractor in Afghanistan paid by a Finnish firm that had the contract to secure the embassy from the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Yle contacted the company, but they had not returned the call by the time of publication.

"I don't know who has made the decision that they belong to a local company and should not come to Finland," said the guard. "I don't know who said that in Finland. They ignored us."

The decision to leave guards off the evacuation order was criticised in the Finnish parliament last week, with Finns Party MP Tom Packalén saying that Finland was leaving behind "a group of people who have risked their own lives for Finland's security".

Packalén warned that Finland could pay a 'steep price' one day, if future employees conclude that their safety would not be guaranteed.

In Kabul, the guard that Yle spoke to admitted that his documents could save his life, if he manages to claim asylum outside Afghanistan — but could also be his death warrant.

"If Taliban search our houses they will find it and can easily kill us," added the guard via an instant messaging service after the interview. "That's the fault of the Finnish embassy. We will not forgive them."

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