In 2012, Bahaar Joya was working as a war correspondent for the BBC on the streets of Kabul.

A decade later and more than 3,000 miles from Afghanistan, the 33-year-old finds herself with an entirely different job.

The path Bahaar has trodden to become a nurse at the Royal Free Hospital has been long and winding, and the memories of violence in her homeland still linger. 

It was while working as a journalist in Kabul that she was targeted for not wearing a headscarf.

The trauma of being stabbed in the street forced Bahaar to flee Afghanistan fearing for her life.

She started a media management course in Oxford in 2016, before eventually retraining as a nurse. Bahaar now works in the private patients unit at the Hampstead hospital.

And she says she is “well aware of the freedom” she has living in the UK, while her mother and one of her brothers still live under the Taliban regime and are unable to leave the country.

Ham & High: Bahaar worked for the BBC as a war correspondent in Afghanistan Bahaar worked for the BBC as a war correspondent in Afghanistan (Image: Royal Free)

Although the 33-year-old continued to work as a journalist when she first arrived in the UK, she claims she quickly began to realise she needed to take a step back.

She said: “There were things I witnessed in Afghanistan that I couldn’t get out of my head. I was suffering from a lot of trauma.

“It was my husband who suggested nursing. He said – ‘You love people and care about them, why don’t you consider nursing?’.”

After attending Middlesex University, Bahaar graduated as a nurse and joined the Royal Free in 2021.

She said: “Before I used to see people getting hurt and all I could do was report it and that made me feel extremely helpless.

“Now I have the ability to help people and that really matters to me.”

Bahaar was born in Afghanistan but grew up in Abu Dhabi until 2003, when her family returned to their homeland.

She still has memories of the repressive atmosphere in which her schooling was conducted. 

The Royal Free nurse said: “At my school they would paint the windows with white paint so the boys couldn’t look in.

“I remember picking at the paint and complaining about it. Why should we have to put up with this just because we were female.”

Bahaar's experiences encouraged her to join a radio station in Kabul aimed primarily at women when she was 16.

While she has since made the switch to nursing, the 33-year-old still works as a freelance journalist when she can.

And her journey, while remarkable, has still not come to an end - Bahaar is curently undergoing additional training so she can become an intensive care nurse to support the very sickest patients.

She added: “I also want to encourage anyone thinking of retraining as a nurse to do so. It’s so worthwhile.”