Afghanistan: Woman 'forever indebted' to stranger who helped her mum flee Kabul after emotional reunion in UK

·3-min read

Fereba Hafizi couldn't sleep last night, she was so excited to see her 79-year-old mother, Layloma, again.

Fereba ran towards her mother as Layloma waited outside the hotel where she's been quarantining for 10 days since returning from Kabul.

As they embraced, both women sobbed and kissed each other's faces. Then, Layloma fainted.

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"I think it was the emotions of seeing me. The sense of relief and happiness, it all just merged together and she was overwhelmed," says Fereba.

They have both lived in the UK for 21 years. The family moved to England from Afghanistan after Fereba's father received threats from the Taliban, settling in Coventry.

In July, Layloma travelled to Kabul for a family funeral. As the Taliban gained ground, she knew she had to get out. Her flights kept getting cancelled, but she was determined to escape.

When Layloma arrived at Kabul airport almost two weeks ago, she saw absolute chaos.

She was knocked over and fainted. Her nephew, who lives in Afghanistan, carried her through the crowds.

"He pushed his way through the crowd, trying to get to the barrier as fast as he could, getting hurt and getting pushed aside," says Fereba.

"He went through all those risks to get to the barrier.

"By the time he got there, my mother was completely unconscious."

Fereba's cousin had to leave Layloma, in that state, with troops at the entrance to the airport.

Fereba didn't know if her mother had woken up or if she still had her life-saving medications with her.

Layloma has to take blood thinners and she also has diabetes. For the next 12 hours, Fereba heard nothing, unsure whether her mother had managed to board a plane to safety.

Layloma doesn't own a mobile phone so Fereba had no way of contacting her.

Then, Fereba got a call from an unknown number. On the other end of the phone was Sayed Attayee. He had met Layloma at Dubai airport - they were both passengers on a flight out of Kabul and were headed to London.

"He's done everything for me, everything that was required, whether it was food or drink," Fereba translates for her mother, who only speaks Dari.

"He was constantly attending to me, holding my bags and luggage, looking after me. I'm constantly indebted to him.

"He was like a miracle to me."

Mr Attayee also feared he would be stranded in Afghanistan after travelling there to visit his father, who had contracted COVID-19.

His father died after they were reunited. Now, Mr Attayee is looking forward to returning home to Newcastle to see his wife and two young children again.

Fereba says she can't find adequate words to describe how grateful she is to Mr Attayee for caring for her mother on their journey home.

"I'll do everything I can, from now until I die, to repay the kindness, generosity, love, and affection you've shown to my mum," she says to Mr Attayee.

But Mr Attayee says helping Layloma was his duty.

"We are human, we have to help each other. She is like my mother. She is from Afghanistan."

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During their hotel quarantine, after arriving back in the UK, Mr Attayee and Layloma continued to meet and chat when they were allowed exercise breaks.

Mr Attayee hopes their friendship will continue and that their families can spend time together.

"I'm going to bring my family to your house and we're gonna make loads of Afghan food," he tells Fereba.

"A feast," she agrees.

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