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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
UK Afghans fear reprisals
Men pray in a west London community centre
Many UK Afghans are fleeing persecution
As the world awaits the United States' reaction to the terrorist attacks on Tuesday, the BBC's Keith Morris talks to Afghan residents in London who fear unfair retaliation.

Mohammed Aman Mehran is close to tears as he speaks after Friday prayers in a community centre in a leafy west London suburb.


We are punished for being Afghan people

Mohammed Mehran
UK Afghan
He has lived in Britain since 1990 but is now frightened.

"We are hurt. People say 'Aha you are Muslims'.

"We are punished for being Afghan people.

"Russia has punished us, Pakistan has punished us, all Afghanistan's neighbours have punished us.

"Now we are all refugees and I have lost my family."

Together with a couple of dozen other men, Mr Mehran has come to Friday prayers organised by the Society of Afghan Residents in the UK.

Escape

The society has an office in a community centre, sharing it with a local playgroup, Tae Kwando classes and the usual reassuring suburban paraphernalia.

Chairman Mohammed Naim Farahi
Mohammed Naim Farahi believes innocent Afghans will be killed
These people have left whole lives and families behind to come to Britain.

Most have fled Afghanistan in the last 10 years, escaping from a chaotic litany of regimes and warlords sponsored, then abandoned by Cold War superpowers.

There are about 50,000 Afghans living in the UK, more than half of them in London.

At the centre, they pore over official forms filling in details, leafing through their worn Afghan passports.

Above them, painted straight onto the wall a huge map of their former home, are the names of provinces carefully painted in black.

Deep condolences

On the other walls photocopied portraits of historic figures, texts from the Koran in ornate brass frames.

Hamid Nezam, a businessman who has lived in Britain for 28 years, seems to speak for all.


If the innocent are attacked it will prolong the problem and fuel hatred against the United States

Mohammed Naim Farahi
He says: "Afghans in this country are worried that they will be looked on as a terrorist.

"Some them are recently arrived, maybe they won't be given refuge.

"Some are on short stay documents and are worried... and there is no government back home that will look after us."

The society's chairman, Mohammed Naim Farahi, has written to the US ambassador to London to express the communities deep condolences, but he is worried.

He warns against a US or Nato attack on Afghanistan: "I think if this attack is made on the cities or people of Afghanistan will be useless.

"Innocent people will be killed and they should not be Nato's target.

"Their aim should be terrorists. If the innocent are attacked it will prolong the problem and fuel hatred against the United States."

His fears are echoed by the other men after prayers.

Mohammed Aman Mehran speaks of the death of his father in Afghanistan and a brother and sister he has not heard from in years.

Another brother lives in New York and ominously has not phoned him so far this week.

And Mohammed Aman himself is between jobs, having given up driving a minicab because of racial abuse.

He is considering a job with a bus company but is frightened that as an Afghan and Muslim he may be attacked by members of the public.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Keith Morris
"This is a time of anxious waiting"
See also:

17 Sep 01 | Americas
A community under siege
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