War, worry and waiting: Hanif and Siamoi find happiness

A country full of conflict, time spent in hiding, and two years separated by more than 9,500 kilometres could not stop Hanif and Siamoi from loving each other.

They’ve been through more than most couples are likely to ever experience but their feelings for each other have never been stronger.

It all started in Afghanistan a couple of decades ago.

They were born in the same place and grew up on the same street, just a few houses away from each other.

And, while cultural norms prevented a romantic relationship or close friendship before marriage, their story is a genuine case of love at first sight.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, Hanif and his family sought refuge in Australia. Devastatingly, he was forced to leave Siamoi behind but not before marrying her in secret first.

“I came to Australia with my family three years ago,” Hanif said.

“We went through such a risky and difficult situation to get out of Afghanistan, from Kabul to the border of Pakistan, the police could get us, so we were in hiding while there was an investigation by the Taliban – they wanted to arrest us and take us.”

Hanif and his family were able to hide until they received assistance from the Australian Embassy and were granted visas to travel to Australia.

“We then had a flight to Dubai and then to Darwin where we had to enter quarantine because of COVID,” he said.

After months of living in fear of the Taliban, they finally touched down in Australia, however, Hanif said his situation only got worse.

“During the first two years of being here I was sick because even though my whole family could get a visa, my wife was left behind,” he said.

“I had a problem with my mental health, life was hard without her.”

Hanif and Siamoi married in secret in an effort to keep her safe while she remained in Afghanistan. Many single women were taken by the Taliban and married off to its members. The thought of this happening to Siamoi broke Hanif’s heart and he was determined to reunite them.

“We married quickly because I wanted, first of all, to make sure she is married and the Taliban wouldn’t abuse her and secondly I promised that no matter how long it took I would wait and do what I could so my wife could join me in Australia,” he said.

Hanif began searching for a migration lawyer who could help him. After getting nowhere he was introduced to Registered Migration Agent, Mirja Colding-Moran, and the CatholicCare Refugee Hub – for the first time in years he felt a sense of hope.

His dream of being reunited with Siamoi could now come true. There were many more months of waiting and a mountain of paperwork to submit but, with support from Mirja and Hanif’s older sister Homaira, the lovebirds were finally reunited in December 2023.

“I want to say a serious thank you [to Homaira, Mirja and the Refugee Hub], I love Siamoi and now I am better because she is here,” Hanif said.

“I can enjoy my life now because I am happy.”

Mirja is honoured to have a played a part in their story.

“Navigating the maze that is Australian migration law is a complex and time consuming process at the best of times,” she said.

“We were applying for a partner visa with the added hurdles of language barriers, lack of formal documentation and limited access to internet and IT equipment in Afghanistan. It was certainly a challenge to pull it together to ensure that Siamoi would meet the criteria.”

Mirja said she got very emotional when she finally received Siamoi’s visa grant.

“Seeing the joy and relief on their faces now when they are finally reunited makes the challenging journey to get to this point all worth it,” she said.

“You get quite emotionally invested in your clients when you need to work so closely on such personal matters. I am incredibly happy for them and excited to see them finally able to build a future together and make their aspirations a reality.”

The devoted couple are both eager to pursue careers in the medical industry after improving their English skills.

“I would really like to become a midwife, a person who delivers babies,” Siamoi said.

“I would like to study. In Afghanistan I never could.”

The Taliban forbids girls and women from receiving an education.

Hanif was previously a qualified nurse at a hospital in Afghanistan and would now like to resume his nursing career in Australia.

“I said to Siamoi you can start your dream now, first improve your English and then study to be a Midwife. In Australia, you can do your dream,” he said.

Hanif and Siamoi are just two of hundreds of people the CatholicCare Refugee Hub has supported.

Can you help the Refugee Hub aid more people? “As Refugee Hub’s funding is very limited, making a donation, if you are able, is an easy but very effective way of allowing us to assist more people from refugee backgrounds to reach safety, be reunited with family, and settle well in Australia,” Mirja said.

To donate visit: catholiccare.org.au/donate

To volunteer visit: catholiccare.org.au/volunteer

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