Boy who walked 5,000 miles to escape the Taliban tells his story to BirminghamLive

The incredibly story of a boy who walked 5,000 miles to escape the Taliban and has made Birmingham his home has been honoured in a publisher’s monthly awards.

Politics and People editor Jane Haynes won Reach’s news reporting category in the company’s monthly awards for the astonishing story, published on BirminghamLive.

Jane helped Sayed, now 15, tell his story in July, as part of a project focusing on the challenges refugees face when they arrive in the UK, ans some of support on offer in Birmingham.

About to be forced into an insurgent training camp for new recruits, the family of 15-year-old Sayed did the only thing they could think of — and smuggled him out of Afghanistan, with instructions to make his way to relatives in Birmingham.

“Over the next year,” wrote Jane, “the young lad walked through Iran, Turkey, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and France, evading border controls, enduring abuse, and living off scraps and handouts, rainwater and apples. With barely any money, no phone and hardly any belongings, he slowly made his way towards the UK.”

Sayed explained in detail the lengths his parents went to to ensure he could escape the clutches of the Taliban, and how that now inspires his goal in life.

“They said to my parents that my uncle had been in the Taliban and was dead, he was killed, so they would take me to take his place. So my parents decided to send me here. They have no money (to fly him here). They hope I will have a good education and can send money back to help them. They don’t even have a house anymore, everything is ruined,” he said.

Sayed said his parents had to pay people to fix it to get him out of Afghanistan. “They agreed to take me — they wanted money so they are now in debt to them. I hope I can earn money to help my parents.”

Reach’s judging panel said of Jane’s story: “The extraordinary story of a boy who walked from Afghanistan to Birmingham — this was possibly my favourite story BirminghamLive have ever covered — talking to a teenager who started, with a broken heart, walking from his family and away from the Taliban to meet his uncle in Birmingham. He walked for a full year and Jane Haynes captured the whole thing wonderfully — in words and video.”

BirminghamLive editor Graeme Brown said: “This is one of my favourite stories for any newspaper I’ve been editor of — it needed to be great reporting to reflect such a brave boy — and it was.”

Jane said it was “an extraordinary journey by a teenage boy, proud to share his incredible story for BirminghamLive.

“It’s hard to imagine how scared a parent must be to let a child head off into the unknown with no idea how it will turn out — but knowing whatever befalls them it is better than handing them over to the Taliban.”

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