THE COVENTRY woman whose mum was stranded in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the country has spoken of her relief that the family’s ordeal had ended.
Fereba Hafizi said she was glad it was all over and the family was looking forward to welcoming Layloma home but she added they were concerned about the trauma her mum had gone through during the past week.
Layloma was in Afghanistan for a family funeral but then became trapped there when Kabul was taken as all flights were grounded.
Fereba said late on Tuesday she received a phone call from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to say a flight had been arranged for Wednesday at 9am but her mum needed to be at the designated hotel for 8am.
Fereba’s cousin accompanied her mum to the hotel – aiming for 6am – but it took two hours and 15 minutes for them to fight their way through the crowds to get to the barrier. Layloma was knocked unconscious and her cousin had to carry her on his back towards the barrier.
The guards saw how distressed she was in and allowed them inside where a doctor attended to her. Fereba’s cousin was immediately sent out as he did not have a foreign passport while Layloma – still unconscious – was handed over and was unaware of what was happening.
The cousin then realised he still had her handbag which contained her medication, medical notes, and emergency contacts details. He requested the guards to pass it to Layloma but after that the family lost all contact with her.
Fereba said: “For 12 hours I tried everything I possibly could think of and all the organisations etc to try and get an update on her wellbeing but had no luck whatsoever.
“I even tried to find staff who worked inside the hotel via Linkedin.”
After 12 hours – at 5am – Fereba received a call from a UK number from another fellow Afghan passenger – Sayed Attayee.
He had been travelling with Layloma and offered to help look after her, using his phone to enable her to keep the family updated on her whereabouts and wellbeing.
Layloma made it to Dubai airport and was offered a flight to Greece with a view to travelling on to Birmingham International. But the flight to Greece had technical problems so after being held on the flight for four hours they were removed back to the terminal and then were later put on another flight – this time one going directly to Birmingham.
On Friday morning at 3am, they landed at Birmingham International Airport and have now been taken to a hotel near Stanstead where they will have to quarantine for ten days.
The plan is – after the quarantine period – to put Layloma on a domestic flight from Stanstead to Birmingham and then get the local police force to drop her back home.
Fereba said: “They had a very long journey but I thank God they are safe and back in the UK.
“The man who looked after her is another fellow dual Afghan-British citizen from Newcastle.
“We don’t know him. But he was in the airport at Dubai with my mum and coming back to the UK and offered to stick around with her the whole time and help her out.
“My mother praised him and mentioned she is in debt to him for his kindness, generosity and support.
“She mentioned that he looked after her like a son and stood before her to protect and keep her safe so many times throughout the journey.”
Fereba chatted with her mum for more than an hour via the hotel phone and said the situation in Afghanistan was heart-breaking.
Layloma praised the British troops and the service they offered her more than anything else.
Fereba said: “She mentioned that if it wasn’t for them. She would have passed away twice.”
She added it was all hard to take in and certain aspects, including scenes ‘which resembled a horror movie’ were going to take time to heal.
“I’m personally in turmoil – relieved knowing its finally over but worried my mum has gone through so much trauma.
“I’m excited at the same time and looking forward to having her back home.”