Meet the man with the world’s most dangerous holiday rep job: Tour guide runs trips around Afghanistan despite receiving death threats from the Taliban and ISIS
- Hafizullah ‘Akbar’ Kohistani runs Afghanistan Tour Services guiding tourists around the Middle Eastern nation
- The former army soldier has come under threat from the Taliban and his neighbours for his ‘controversial’ job
- He says that most people in Afghanistan are friendly to tourists and none of his guests have ever been harmed
Meet the man with the world’s most dangerous holiday rep job – he shows people around Afghanistan and gets death threats from the Taliban and ISIS.
Hafizullah ‘Akbar’ Kohistani, 29, ferries European thrill-seekers across the Middle Eastern country and acts as their bodyguard if they get into trouble.
But the former Afghan National Army soldier from Kabul has come under threat from Islamist extremists as well as his neighbours for his controversial company.
Hafizullah ‘Akbar’ Kohistani, pictured, who runs a tour company showing visitors around Afghanistan – despite being threatened by the Taliban and ISIS
The former Afghan National Army soldier from Kabul has come under threat for his job. Pictured right is Akbar during one of his tours in November 2018
Akbar was part of Afghan Logistics and Tours for 10 years but founded his own company, Afghanistan Tour Services, last year
Akbar, pictured, has had to unfriend and block his family from social media in a bid to keep them safe due to his contentious job
He has had to unfriend or block his family from his social media pages in a bid to protect them from the contentious pictures he posts with tourists.
And he was also forced to create a new Facebook account as he no longer accepts friend requests from Afghans.
Akbar said: ‘My family’s lives are at risk.
‘Sometimes I receive some threats from unknown people, mostly they are unhappy that I am working with foreigners and I try to explain to them that I am not working with military forces, I am working with tourists.
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‘But I think I should continue up to the end because I am already inside and I cannot go back and lots of people know what I am doing.
‘I am a little afraid of the Taliban coming back into power.’
Some of the threats have come from individuals but others have claimed to be members of the Taliban and ISIS and said they will kill him for his work.
He added: ‘I tell them about the tourists and why the tourists are visiting our country but unfortunately for them there is no difference between foreigners, military and tourists. For them being a foreigner is enough.’
One of the tourists who has used Akbar’s services is Brit Andy McGinlay from Glasgow, who travelled to Afghanistan in 2015. He is pictured in the mountains overlooking Kabul
Andy and Akbar chat during one of their excursions on their tour of Afghanistan. Andy used Akbar’s services in 2015 during the height of ISIS’s reign of terror
Andy poses in front of the ruins of the Darul Aman Palace in the Afghan capital Kabul, which dates back to the 1920s
On Akbar’s tours, visitors get to see sights dotted around the country including this MIG fighter jet, which is on display in the street
A picture captured by Andy of an armoured vehicle parked up in the street. Andy said: ‘Regarding the threats, I was only aware of them specifically aimed at Akbar after I posted my YouTube vlog on Afghanistan’
In one incident he was attacked by five people as he tried to show a tourist around a mosque in Afghanistan’s third largest city, Herat.
‘Normally when I take tourists to the mosques I am really uncomfortable because you will feel that people are unhappy,’ he said.
‘One time in Herat five people gathered around me and with very bad language asked why you brought this non-Muslim here.
‘They tried to slap me but I knew what I should do with these kinds of people – first I try to calm them with speaking, then leave the area ASAP.’
Akbar was part of Afghan Logistics and Tours for 10 years but founded his own company, Afghanistan Tour Services, last year.
One of Akbar’s guests, German traveller Andreas Schoeps, who toured around Afghanistan in November. He is pictured snapping images in the mountains
Tourist Andreas surveys the Afghan landscape. Tourism to Afghanistan has plummeted since war broke out in 2001
He wanted to grow his business but the number of tourists to visit Afghanistan has declined in recent years.
Four customers used him as a guide up until the end of September and a further five in the final months of 2018.
So far, he has had tourists from Britain, Germany, America, Russia, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Holland and Ukraine.
Tourism to Afghanistan has plummeted since war broke out in 2001.
The United Nations do not receive information on the number of tourists to visit the country but do hold information on the money spent by the tourists.
Figures from the UN World Tourism Organization show spending dropped from £128million in 2012 to £71million in 2014.
The fall in visitors came as violence gripped the country and the number of dead increased.
Figures from the UN World Tourism Organization show spending in Afghanistan dropped from £128million in 2012 to £71million in 2014. Pictured is German tourist Andreas watching a pottery maker at work
One of the sites Akbar took Andreas to is the stunning Blue Mosque, which is an important Islamic shrine in Afghanistan
While on his travels in Afghanistan, Andy snapped a selfie with journalist Sahzeb Jillani in Kabul
The British Foreign Office advises against travel in all parts of Afghanistan due to the threat of terrorism and kidnappings.
Akbar understands this and does not blame people for being weary of holidaying to his homeland.
‘I do not blame them because they judge us based on what they hear from their media,’ he said.
‘As long as the security situation is like it is now, there is no hope for tourism – everything is dependent on the security situations.’
But he is quick to add that most people in Afghanistan are friendly to tourists and none of his guests have ever come to harm.
‘We know where we should visit, we have a limit in every province up to which part of the province we should go or which areas we can stop and which areas we cannot stop, which places we can stop for long time and which places we should stop for a short time.
‘We have our rules and we ask our tourists to follow our rules for their safety.’
He added: ‘I think it is my responsibility to show to the world the real face of our country and show them our people also want peace, prosperity and a good life.
‘We are tired of this situation, we are tired of these wars and I want to deliver these messages to the world via tourists.’
Andy McGinlay, a 37-year-old Glaswegian, used Akbar’s service at the height of ISIS’s power in 2015.
Speaking from his latest adventure in Doha, Qatar, the University of Glasgow graduate said: ‘I felt safe with him (Akbar) at all times even though he was much younger than me, he knew the roads, he knew the people and when I felt anxious or nervous, he would explain what was going on.
‘He was excellent, good English, very patient and trustworthy.’
Mr McGinlay, an English lecturer in the Middle East who has been dubbed Emirates’ airlines biggest fan as he had their logo tattooed on his arm and featured on their ‘celebrity customer wall’ next to Cristiano Ronaldo, was on a mission to visit 100 countries – since completed – and Afghanistan was number 82.
Italian tourist Massimo Piras, pictured, is another traveller that has explored Afghanistan with the help of Akbar
Massimo snaps pictures of tanks kept behind a wire fence during his trip to Afghanistan in October 2018
While walking around a busy market in Afghanistan, Massimo was able to snap pictures of the fabrics on sale to customers
The British Foreign Office advises against travel in all parts of Afghanistan due to the threat of terrorism and kidnappings. Pictured is Massimo at a market
He added: ‘To be honest, it’s always extremely exciting to visit dangerous countries. I had just come from North Korea before I travelled to Kabul.
‘When I land in hot-zones, dangerous countries, I become hyper-alert. It’s like a state of full awareness, sight sharpened, sounds pin-pointed quickly.
‘It’s thrilling, scary, exciting all at once. When you finally get through airport customs and on to the flight out, you finally can breathe out and relax. Only then.’
He continued: ‘Regarding the threats, I was only aware of them specifically aimed at Akbar after I posted my YouTube vlog on Afghanistan.
‘The Taliban watched it on my channel and managed to contact and threaten him directly.
‘I think he’s very brave to continue his job in this dangerous country.
‘His life is in danger but he feels it’s a worthwhile endeavour to show the real Afghanistan, the softer side, the friendly people and tasty food – like the kebabs – to the wider world.’
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