The agony of the Afghan translators' wives abandoned by Britain

Agony of the Afghan translators’ wives abandoned by Britain: Their husbands won sanctuary – but small print says loved ones can’t join them

  • Afghan translators have been beaten, murdered and beheaded by the Taliban 
  • Their wives, refused entry to Britain, fear the Taliban could come for them next
  • The Mail tells their stories for award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign

Each day, Mohammadi sits alone in her mud-walled room on the edge of the Afghan capital Kabul asking herself the same question: ‘Will Britain rescue me before the Taliban come for me?’

The wife of a former Afghan translator for the British forces, she is terrified she is a target for the Taliban’s killers. 

She has so far been unable to join him in Britain and accused the UK Government of ‘cruelty’ and denying her the right to live with her husband.

‘It is heartbreaking,’ the 34-year-old said. ‘I am suffering from deep depression. I know that the Taliban is growing stronger and with it the threat against me becomes greater.

‘My life is nothing without my husband. Britain is a country which believes in the rights of women and hears the voice of women – but it is denying me the basic right of living with my family.’

Mohammadi is one of a dozen wives of ex-Afghan interpreters to have begun unprecedented legal action against the British Government to allow them to join their husbands in this country.

She told our newspaper’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign how she fears being left behind to face Taliban revenge attacks when UK and US forces withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.

The wives accuse the Home Office of ‘endangering’ their lives and ‘unreasonably’ denying them the right to a family life.

They are caught in a loophole because they were engaged but not yet married to their husbands when the men were granted sanctuary in the UK. 

This means they must apply under normal immigration and asylum rules, one requirement being that they must speak English. 

Had they been married at the time of relocation, the wives would have been able to join their husbands in the UK.

Mohammadi (right) is one of a dozen wives of ex-Afghan interpreters to have begun legal action against the British Government to allow them to join their husbands

After being allowed to live in Britain, the translators returned to Afghanistan to marry. They are now in the UK but their attempts to bring their wives to live with them have been rejected.

Now lawyers for the wives have written to the Home Office giving notice that they will seek a judicial review of the decision, highlighting both the exceptional circumstances of the cases with the growing threat from the Taliban and their denial of the right to a family life.

Writing on Mohammadi’s behalf, barrister Celia Record said: ‘There is a risk to the family members of the interpreters who live in Afghanistan. The risk is the same – whether married before relocation of the husband or afterwards.’

Mohammadi said: ‘The dangers to me because of my husband’s work for the UK are very clear. They will punish him by punishing me. I live in a room in hiding and fear. I submitted my request to come to England more than two years ago and was told it would take eight weeks. Two months ago, I was told it was rejected.’

Her husband Ahmad, 37, worked for 11 years on the frontline with the SAS and SBS.

He was injured when an armoured vehicle was blown up and came to Britain in September 2016.

He returned to marry Mohammadi in Afghanistan the following July. Since then, they have been battling to be together in the UK.

He said: ‘We are deeply depressed about being apart, it is so cruel after all our sacrifices.’ He added the Home Office was reviewing his wife’s case but it would take at least three months.

Sara de Jong, of the Sulha Alliance which has campaigned for translators, said: ‘For the handful of resettled interpreters who were engaged according to cultural custom, but who couldn’t marry officially before coming to safety in the UK, we need a generous arrangement to bring their wives to the UK. 

The inability to protect their families back in Afghanistan takes a psychological toll on the interpreters. 

With the Taliban gaining in strength every day, and little time left till the US and Nato withdraw, these families should be urgently reunited, to protect wives and children against revenge from insurgents.’

A government spokesman said: ‘We have so far relocated over 1,500 locally employed Afghan staff and their families to the UK, with thousands more to follow in the coming months. Each application is considered on a case by case basis and handled sympathetically.’

 Our time is running out 

Brekhna’s marriage to Salim – who spent five years on the frontline in Helmand – was delayed because the Taliban kidnapped his brother.

They were engaged when Salim, 31, arrived in the UK in 2016 and he returned to marry the following year. 

But her application to join him was rejected, with language being a major barrier.

Brekhna’s marriage to Salim – who spent five years on the frontline in Helmand – was delayed because the Taliban kidnapped his brother

Brekhna, 21, said: ‘I worry if I will ever see my husband again. I am so depressed. I am apart from my husband for more than a year, I ask him why he married me if we can’t be together. It is unfair and sometimes I wonder if it is worth going on.’

Salim said: ‘I have appealed to the Government for help. It is impossible for her to learn English, there are no language schools where the family live and for a woman at these times to learn English makes her a target.’

‘I have only a few months to bring my wife here. After that, it will be very hard as the Taliban will be in government and she becomes a target.’

I’m pregnant and trapped

The wives must apply through the normal channels to move to the UK and one requirement is they have to speak English. But Rahimi says this is impossible.

She is expecting her first child with her husband Fahim after he visited her for the first time in years – but her application to join him was refused six weeks ago.

Rahimi, 22, said it’s impossible to learn English at school so she is ‘trapped’ there.

Rahimi, 22 applied to join her husband Fahim in Britain but was rejected six weeks ago

Fahim, 30, said the ‘Taliban just does not allow it [learning]’. 

But she is ‘trying hard’ to learn from YouTube. Fahim said: ‘These are truly exceptional circumstances the Home Office should recognise.’

He worked on the frontline for nearly four years and moved to the UK in 2017.

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