It was the moment that Mohammad and Rohina Wardak had dreamt of but feared would never happen while the Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
Last night, on a damp, grey evening, the former translator for the British military and his wife stepped off an RAF plane on to English soil, their excitement matched only by relief.
‘This is a moment we have prayed for, dreamt of but did not believe could really happen as our hopes had been dashed so many times, our hearts broken and lives shattered,’ Mohammad, 30, said.
‘We have lived so long apart, cruelly and wrongly denied the chance everyone should have to live with their partner that this is an unforgettable, magical moment…we have survived apart and hope we can finally begin a new life together.’
It was the moment that Mohammad and Rohina Wardak had dreamt of but feared would never happen while the Taliban controlled Afghanistan
The couple were on the third mercy flight, the largest yet, bringing vulnerable Afghans to the UK from countries bordering their homeland.
Among the 124 passengers were 29 Afghans from the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) community who have been persecuted by the Taliban.
The flight also included interpreters and other Afghans who qualified to come to Britain under the Arap (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) and LOTR (Leave Outside the Rules) schemes.
Where the flight took off from has not been disclosed for security reasons.
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, UK nationals and vulnerable Afghans, including Rohina, have been forced to make their own way to neighbouring countries from where they can fly to the UK.
For Mohammad and his wife of four years, 22, it has been an extraordinary struggle to be together, their case championed by this newspaper’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign.
They had feared they would be apart for years more after Rohina had failed to force her way through the crush around Kabul’s airport to board an RAF evacuation flight in August as Western forces pulled out of Afghanistan.
Four times she battled to reach the airport after being told by UK officials a flight was waiting for her, but each time she was forced back.
Last night, on a damp, grey evening, the former translator for the British military and his wife stepped off an RAF plane on to English soil, their excitement matched only by relief
Twice she collapsed unconscious and was trampled on by the seething crowds.
Once she had to be carried clear, her feet bloodied by the crush.
‘At that time my wife had to go to hospital and we thought we would not be together for a long, long time and Rohina was beginning to question the marriage itself,’ said Mohammad, who now lives in Newport, South Wales.
Mohammad and Rohina had been engaged when Mohammad, who worked for four years with UK troops on the frontlines of Helmand, was relocated to Britain in 2015.
He returned to marry two years later but due to immigration rules, she was unable to join him and had to apply for a visa.
Had they been married when he was given refuge, then she would have been allowed to come to the UK automatically.
Rohina tried for more than two years for a visa – the processing hampered by the Covid crisis – but to her dismay in April she was refused by the British Embassy in Kabul, one of ten wives of ex-translators in the UK rejected.
In desperation, the families began an unprecedented legal action against the British government to allow them to join their husbands in this country.
The wives, whose cases were highlighted by the Daily Mail, accused the Home Office of endangering their lives and ‘unreasonably’ denying them the right to a family life.
In early August the court ruled in the wives’ favour but by then they faced making it past Taliban checkpoints and then thousands besieging Kabul Airport.
On one heartbreaking day, one wife made it, but Rohina didn’t.
After the Taliban seized control, Mohammad refused to give up.
As he heard that some Afghans, including translators and their families, were crossing into neighbouring countries, he decided he could not wait any longer and flew to the Middle East, begging the British High Commission for help.
A border pass was arranged for Rohina, who held a visa for the UK, and she travelled – but there was more agony as she was initially refused permission to cross.
‘It was quite awful,’ said Mohammad. ‘We cried. We were 100 metres apart either side of the border.’
Last night as they arrived, they thanked the British diplomats who helped their passage and the Daily Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign.
Mohammad said: ‘We believe this wonderful moment has been made possible with the help of your hard work, you never gave up on interpreters and their wives, you gave us hope when none seemed to be there and you will always be with us.’