The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has seen many Afghans risk their lives--over a 100 have been killed in stampedes, firing and attacks at the Kabul airport since August 15-- to get out of the country. While thousands have been evacuated, others haven't been so lucky due to heavy rush of people, threats by the Taliban, and bureaucratic hurdles hampering the process. Sharifa Afzali overcame all of these and is now set to be united with her husband: a US Army veteran in Oklahoma.
She arrived at the Hamid Karzai International Airport with a marriage certificate, and handed her cell phone to the US soldier manning the airport gate.
Hans Wright said he wasn't sure if the soldier would bypass rules for the visa-less woman. “And by the grace of God, he let my wife and my interpreter through,” Wright told Reuters.
While her escape was aided by a Special Immigration Visa application, there have been multiple cases of "families that either have been separated or told that only the family members holding a blue (US) passport or a green card are allowed through the gates,” said Stacia George, a former USAID official.
An email sent by Ashley Sogge, a former US Army special operations officer, to White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki may also have proved crucial in Afzali managing to get out of the country.
“It is a good news story. But unfortunately, nothing that is replicable,” Sogge told Reuters. “It was truly ad hoc.”
Wright, who retired in 2009 as a first sergeant after 24 years of service, met Afzali in 2017 after he began working as a contractor advising Afghan special forces. They flew in April to Dubai to get married, but a judge in Utah had to marry them in an online ceremony because the United Arab Emirates would not give them the paperwork “because I am a Christian and she is a Muslim.”
Although their marriage certificate was signed by Utah’s lieutenant governor, Afzali could not apply for a US spousal visa because she already had an SIV application in process since 2018. Wright left Afghanistan in May, but his hopes of Afzali’s visa being approved were dashed due to the Taliban takeover and the chaos that ensued at the Kabul airport.