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Bookseller of Kabul becomes asylum seeker in London after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan 

A father-of-nine who became famous around the world when he was the subject of the 2002 bestseller Bookseller of Kabul is now an asylum seeker in London. 

Shah Muhammad Rais, 69, graduated with a masters degree in civil engineering from Kabul University, but believing he couldn’t make a career in the field, founded his bookshop in 1974 instead. 

It came to prominence when in 2002, Åsne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, moved in with the family for five months to write an account of life in the country.

The resulting book, Bookseller of Kabul, topped international sales charts and went on to be translated into dozens of languages.

However in September, Rais fled Afghanistan and travelled to the UK to seek asylum. He is now living in a London Home Office hotel while he waits for his case to be processed.

Shah Muhammad Rais, 69, who became famous around the world when he was the subject of the 2002 bestseller Bookseller of Kabul is now an asylum seeker in London

Rais' life came to prominence when in 2002, Åsne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, moved in with the family for five months to write an account of life in the country (pictured, the resulting book)

Rais’ life came to prominence when in 2002, Åsne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, moved in with the family for five months to write an account of life in the country (pictured, the resulting book) 

After establishing his shop in 1974, Rais began amassing a huge collection of literature.

His store is is believed to have the largest collection of books about Afghanistan, with a number of his rarest books hidden away in secure locations.

Meanwhile he also sells textbooks on topics like medicine, engineering and languages.

Over the years, he has twice been imprisoned – first in 1979, during the Soviet era, when he was jailed for a year.

However in September, Rais fled Afghanistan and travelled to the UK to seek asylum. He is now living in a London Home Office hotel while he waits for his case to be processed

However in September, Rais fled Afghanistan and travelled to the UK to seek asylum. He is now living in a London Home Office hotel while he waits for his case to be processed

In 1982, he was imprisoned for a second time, when he said he faced torture and mistreatment, including sleep deprivation.

He told The Guardian: ‘From 2002 to 2020 I sold over 15,000 copies of European and US literature.’

Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there.

She returned the following spring, where she lived with Rais’ family for several months. 

Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there and ended up writing an account of Rais' family life

Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there and ended up writing an account of

It was an intimate portrait, based on her account and observations from living with the family.

When the book was published in 2002, it found worldwide success and became a bestseller, making Rais a household name.

However the family claimed the book was inaccurate and invasive, bringing legal action against her.

On July 24, 2010, she was found guilty of defamation and ‘negligent journalistic practices and ordered to pay damages to Suraia Rais, wife of Shah Muhammad Rais’. 

However later, an Norwegian appeal court cleared the author of invading their privacy and found the book accurate. 

Rais, who founded the bookshop in 1974, said he now hopes to live and work in the UK and hopes to get a job at the British library

Rais, who founded the bookshop in 1974, said he now hopes to live and work in the UK and hopes to get a job at the British library  

The bookseller continues to own his store in Kabul, but said he is unsure whether the Taliban will ban or destroy it

The bookseller continues to own his store in Kabul, but said he is unsure whether the Taliban will ban or destroy it 

Despite fleeing the country last year, Rais is still running his bookshop, and an online store.

He explained: ‘I will keep the bookshop open as long as possible, maybe the Taliban will ban it or destroy it.’ 

He arrived in the UK last September and claimed asylum at the airport, while he is now living in a London Home Office hotel, waiting for his case to be processed.

He said he hopes to work at the British library, opening an Afghan reading room. 

 

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk