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Afghan woman tells of relief as visa refusal overturned

Community activist Maryam has spoken out against the Taliban and its approach to women’s rights.

The Home Office

A woman who was at risk of being sent back to Afghanistan and feared for her life has spoken of her happiness and excitement at hearing she will be allowed to stay in the UK.

The Home Office had previously said Maryam Amiri, who lives in Glasgow and received her first UK visa in 2016, did not meet the criteria for a new spousal visa, and suggested she could safely return to Afghanistan.

But Maryam, a community activist who has spoken out against the Taliban and its approach to women’s rights, said she felt threatened and scared of dying if she was forced to return.

She told the PA news agency she had begun the appeals process and had been expecting to challenge the Home Office through the courts, but has now been told she will receive another two-and-a-half-year visa in the coming weeks.

But she still fears for her family, who she said are facing persecution under the Taliban in Afghanistan, and said she now wants to do more to save them.

She said: “I received a call from my lawyer when I was in college. My lawyer said that there is very good news – you will receive your visa in the next two weeks without going to court.

“I can’t express my feelings in that moment. I am very happy with the Home Office’s fair decision, and I hope that they will make fair decisions in the future, not hastily and unfairly.

“I am very excited to continue with my plans, to start university and continue my social activities.

“I feel very safe, but still my thoughts are with my family, who are still in Afghanistan and aren’t secure.

“I request that the Home Office makes fair decisions regarding my family as soon as possible.”

Maryam said she had hoped for an indefinite visa, adding: “But still, I’m happy. It’s better than sending me back to Afghanistan.”

And she hopes she can now expand a community group which she runs called Maryam Empowering Futures, which she says is for Afghan women and focuses on education, health and skills. She hopes to turn the group into an official charity soon.

She said: “Thank you to my powerful and lovely MP Alison Thewliss, my kindest lecturer Jane Horne, friends, group members, the media, and all those who have supported me throughout this difficult moment I faced.”

Ms Thewliss, the SNP MP for Glasgow Central, said: “I’m very relieved to hear that the Home Office have withdrawn the refusal of Maryam’s visa extension – it was an appalling decision. I hope that she will now have more certainty that her future is safe.

“That said, I still have serious concerns about a Home Office decision-making process that ever thought it appropriate to send a woman educator and activist back to Taliban-run Afghanistan.

“I hope that the processes which led to this dangerous refusal being issued will be reviewed, and that no other Afghans face a similar situation to Maryam Amiri.”

Ms Thewliss had previously hit out at the Home Office decision notice which suggested Maryam and her husband could return to Afghanistan.

She said of the case: “Her husband had supported the training of UK forces. Her husband has a British passport. Those would seem to me to be two very sensible reasons as to why he can’t return.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “All visa applications are decided on individual merits.

“We don’t routinely comment on individual cases.”

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