An Oldham woman’s husband who is stuck in Gaza has managed to get to the south of the region after a gruelling six-hour journey on foot.

Oldhamer Afshan Abubakar is now trying to get her husband’s passport to him after his visa was approved for him to come to the UK.

She is hoping that MP Debbie Abrahams will be able to get Hani Abualqaraya on the British list to use the Rafah crossing border with Egypt when it reopens.  

Afshan has been struggling to keep in contact with Hani due to issues with the internet connection in the region, leaving her having to handle admin, such as trying to get his passport to him, while Hani fights for his life.

While the couple consider themselves Islamically married, they are officially considered fiancés by the UK government.

Sleepless nights

Afshan has been dealing with sleepless nights as she awaits news of her husband. On Guy Fawkes Night, Afshan said she woke up crying due to the sounds of the fireworks.

She said: “When the fireworks started going off, I actually pictured myself in Gaza, and it made me realise what these people hear on a daily basis, every morning, every night.

“Some of the fireworks were really loud, it startled me and made me jump, I started crying.”

Hani managed to reunite with his mother at the Deir Al Balah School yesterday, following a six-hour walk from the north of the region. He had been staying at the Jabalia refugee camp, which was bombed in an Israeli airstrike last week.

The 42-year-old mum of three said Hani told her he would attempt to travel south again on Sunday morning, his third attempt to do so.

Israel warned 1.1 million residents in the north to evacuate to the south last month.

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She said: “A lot of people obviously are scared of travelling, because it’s a dire situation, because people were shot and killed on the way to south Gaza.

“His sister got shot in the leg, and she’s got two twins and one of them got shot in the head.

“The thing I keep telling myself is that God will protect them, God will protect them. I’m trying to keep my sanity going, thinking positive and optimistic.

“It’s so hard, it’s actually traumatising seeing the devastation there, the children, babies, and the fact that electric is going, there’s no fuel, there’s no proper aid, water.”

Hoping for a ceasefire

Afshan said she is ‘desperate’ for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to call for a ceasefire, adding that she felt let down that they had not.

The party leaders have previously only gone as far as to call for humanitarian pauses, which has led to council leaders across the country quitting the Labour party.

Some Labour councillors in Oldham, including some cabinet members, have signed a letter calling on the party to demand a ceasefire in the region.

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Afshan said she hoped a ceasefire would save lives in the region and help people to escape.

She added: “Everyone’s tired, everyone wants the war to end. Israeli people just want the hostages back. How can they get the hostages back alive if everything’s getting destroyed in the ground invasion? What’s the guarantee that the hostages weren’t in those buildings?

The Oldham Times: Afshan and HaniAfshan and Hani (Image: Afshan Abubakar)

“I just feel like everything’s been blown out of proportion and got out of hand. From something that could have been dealt with using special forces and using a planned out rescue mission, it’s turned into a full genocide upon the Palestinians. The Palestinians are not equipped.”

Passport still in Jordan

Israel’s bombardment of the area started following an attack by Hamas on October 7 which left more than 1,000 Israelis dead.

Gaza’s health ministry has said that more than 10,000 have been killed in the area since the war began, with water and electricity cut off.

Now, Afshan is hoping she can find a way of getting Hani’s passport and visa to him.

Hani’s passport and visa is currently at the UK embassy in Jordan, but Afshan is trying to get it transferred to Egypt, where she hopes one of Hani’s friends can pick it up and take it to the border crossing when it opens.

Afshan continued: “We get everything here, we get all facilities here. You can’t even imagine what they’re going through. I’m so desperate for the government to stop being prejudiced, stop being inhumane, start putting their weight down and start demanding a ceasefire.

“Why is it OK for these people to continue to die? I’m related to Hani and my in-laws, they’re my family. How can I watch my family go through this? How can I ignore it?”

The Oldham Times: Afshan hopes Hani will be able to come to the UK soonAfshan hopes Hani will be able to come to the UK soon (Image: Jack Fifield, Newsquest)

'Hani is reliant on me'

Afshan added that difficulties with the internet connection in Gaza meant Hani was reliant on her for help.

Afshan said: “He’s reliant on me because his wi-fi is not guaranteed. He can’t communicate, he can’t call anyone outside of Gaza, he’s relying solely on me.

“It’s my job to make sure his passport gets from Jordan to Egypt. I’ve got his friend ready in Egypt, on standby, to collect his passport. He’s even ready to travel through Egypt’s border to get hold of Hani, he’s just waiting for the green light.

“My obstacle is I’ve not heard anything from the embassy. I’ve marked it urgent and an immediate threat for life, but they’ve not confirmed to me yet that the passport is being delivered.

“I’m literally begging them to help, for me I feel like this is my last chance to get my husband to me safely.”

Debbie Abrahams MP said: “I cannot comment on the detail of individual cases but this is clearly a distressing situation for Afshan.

“My office and I are in contact with Afshan and are supporting her as well as making representations to Government departments and Ministers at the highest level.”