Indian-Afghan couple fights to flee Taliban, construct life in India

New Delhi: The provide from the Indian embassy in Iran lay on the desk: Iqra Jamal might return to her homeland, however her Afghan husband must keep behind in Afghanistan. 4 months pregnant on the time, in December 2021, Iqra was clear in her reply — not with out my husband.

It’s a harrowing predicament for the Indian-Afghan couple, who’ve fought quite a few odds to remain collectively — from Covid, to the Taliban takeover, and, now, maybe probably the most insurmountable of them: alleged diplomatic pink tape. However, elevating their soon-to-be born child in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan places concern in each their hearts for a number of causes.

“I need to go away Afghanistan earlier than I ship the child,” Iqra mentioned. “If the kid is born right here, it can make it more durable and extra sophisticated to get a passport for the child as a result of, as you understand, the scenario in Afghanistan may be very unhealthy. All in all, this may make going to India extra sophisticated.”

With embassies and primary establishments in Afghanistan barely useful and along with her due date quick approaching, the couple is preventing a dropping battle towards time. Nevertheless, they’re nonetheless hopeful that the Indian embassy will give them recourse.

Additionally Learn: School ban for Afghan girls, but Taliban leaders’ daughters play football, study medicine abroad

‘Every thing modified after Taliban got here to energy’

Iqra met her to-be husband (whom she has requested not be named) in 2012 after they had been college students on the Aligarh Muslim College (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh.

He was learning political science and he or she optometry. The couple dated for a number of years, however their battle to stay collectively started shortly after they had been engaged in a small ceremony in 2018 in India, after which had been legally married in June 2021.

The primary impediment got here within the type of a possibility: Iqra’s husband landed a job as an administrative officer within the Afghan Ministry of Overseas Affairs in 2020, when the Ashraf Ghani authorities was nonetheless in energy.

“It was a giant deal — getting that job,” he instructed ThePrint over the telephone. The long-term outlook was additionally optimistic. The political science graduate anticipated to serve out his probationary interval in Afghanistan, after which he aimed to be transferred to the Afghan embassy in New Delhi.

He left for Afghanistan in July 2020, with the plan that Iqra would observe on a partner visa after which the 2 would finally return to India to begin a household.

However, Covid disrupted this plan. Because the pandemic worsened in India and the second wave hit, Iqra was capable of safe a partner visa solely in July 2021.

This was a month after the 2 had been legally married by means of a long-winded course of that concerned Iqra signing a wedding certificates that was couriered to Afghanistan, the place it was signed by her husband, after which returned to India. The certificates, which ThePrint has considered, has the official stamps of the Indian and Afghan overseas ministries.

For about one month, the couple basked in one another’s firm after almost a yr of being aside. They loved a marriage reception that Iqra’s in-laws organized in Herat, and in August bought the completely happy information that they had been anticipating a toddler.

“We had plans to return to India and lift the kid. However the whole lot modified after the Taliban got here into energy,” Iqra mentioned.

On 15 August, Kabul fell to the Taliban. The Indian Dwelling Ministry decided that, henceforth, Afghans might solely enter India on emergency ‘e-visas’. Not even a partner visa would enable an Afghan nationwide entry into India.

Missed evacuation, hiding out in a parking zone, a failed journey to Iran

Iqra’s husband was a authorities worker and so forth the evacuation clearance record, she mentioned, however it was already too late for them after they arrived on the airport.

“The very first thing we did was head to the airport in Kabul. However after it was bombed, we had nowhere to go. For some days, we hid out in a parking zone. Then we determined to move again to Herat, the place my husband’s household lives,” she mentioned.

Her husband utilized for an e-visa on 28 August 2021, however the standing of this utility stays in limbo. As is the predicament of many stranded Afghans, his e-visa has been neither accepted not rejected, however stays “beneath course of”.

In December final yr, the couple determined to take issues into their very own arms and travelled to neighbouring Iran on a one-month vacationer visa. That they had only one agenda: to request the Indian embassy in Tehran to permit them protected journey to India.

“We went to the Indian embassy in Iran on daily basis for one month. Nevertheless, they had been solely prepared to permit my spouse to journey to India as a result of she is an Indian nationwide. They mentioned I ought to return to Afghanistan and are available later,” Iqra’s husband mentioned.

‘I wasn’t ready to desert my husband’

In line with official sources, Iqra, being an Indian citizen, can catch any flight and are available to India. She will additionally strategy any Indian embassy to get emergency journey paperwork to have the ability to journey to India in case her passport has expired. However her Afghan husband can come to India solely on an e-visa.

For Iqra, this selection was untenable. “I wasn’t ready to desert my husband. I didn’t need to elevate our little one alone,” she mentioned.

She additional claimed that the couple had requested the embassy to increase her passport, which was set to run out in January 2022, however they refused.

Iqra’s husband additionally claimed that he had obtained an odd name whereas in Iran, sparking momentary hope for the couple.

“Just a few days after we arrived in Iran, we bought a name from the Indian authorities that my e-visa has been permitted. We had been so completely happy. However once we had been instructed to verify on-line, it was not reflecting. My utility nonetheless mentioned it was beneath course of,” he mentioned.

That thriller has by no means been cleared up. In line with Iqra’s husband, all his emails to the Indian overseas and residential ministries have gone unanswered. The three particular emergency numbers offered by the Indian authorities for stranded Afghans are perpetually switched off, he added.

After their vacationer visa in Iran expired, the couple returned to Afghanistan, empty-handed.

ThePrint spoke with Iqra’s father, 59-year-old Anjum Arshad Jamal, who mentioned that he understood his daughter’s determination to not return to India with out her husband.

“Iqra made it clear that she didn’t need to abandon her husband. My spouse and I revered her determination. I’ve been in contact with the Indian Overseas Ministry and Dwelling Ministry however they haven’t given us a transparent reply. We hope they are going to have the ability to come to India safely quickly,” he mentioned.

With inputs from Nayanima Basu

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Additionally Learn: Colombo to Male to Islamabad, India has new headaches as neighbourhood erupts in trouble


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