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Almost 80 female judges, journalists and activists rescued from Afghanistan to Greece

‘They need to be able to rebuild their lives,’ Baroness Helena Kennedy QC tells The Independent

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Tuesday 02 November 2021 14:13 GMT
International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute helped organise evacuation of 370 people in total as women’s relatives were rescued too
International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute helped organise evacuation of 370 people in total as women’s relatives were rescued too (AFP via Getty Images)

Some 79 female judges, journalists and human rights activists have been evacuated from Afghanistan to Greece after fearing for their lives while stranded in the Taliban-seized country.

The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute helped organise the evacuation of 370 people in total as the women’s relatives were rescued too.

It comes after The Independent revealed more than 200 women judges were stranded in hiding from the Taliban in Afghanistan at the beginning of September, while campaigners warned they are at risk of being killed by the Taliban.

The Taliban has freed thousands of prisoners, including terrorists and senior al Qaeda operatives, with experts saying the judges responsible for sending many of the newly released criminals to jail are terrified for their safety now the inmates are free.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC told The Independent they initially rescued 26 judges at the end of September before managing to evacuate more on 24 October alongside the activists, lawyers, journalists and their relatives.

She said: “The Greeks said they didn't have any more council flats. I called Air B&B headquarters in Los Angeles to speak to someone who deals with their charitable arm. They said we will pay for them to stay in hotels for a fortnight. I flew out to Athens to see the Afghan women.

“I am hoping some other corporation might pay for places for them to stay for another couple of weeks so these people can survive until they get visas. They need to be able to rebuild their lives. If every country took in five or ten, then the problem is solved.”

While the Greek government is giving them temporary visas, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute is trying to find them final destinations to resettle in.

Marzia Babakarkhail, who used to work as a family court judge in Afghanistan but now lives in the UK, told The Independent: “There are currently around 100 judges still left in Afghanistan facing grave threats from the Taliban.

“Some of the judges in Greece do not have a visa for a third country. They are worrying about what happens when they finish their Greek visa. They need support to rebuild their lives after they are rescued.”

Speaking to The Independent in a previous interview, the 55-year-old, who is campaigning for the female judges to be rescued from Afghanistan, accused the Taliban of trying to kill her in Afghanistan in 1997 and again in Pakistan in 2007.

Some of the women and families rescued have already been resettled in nations such as Iceland, Ireland, Australia, USA, Germany, New Zealand and the UK, with around 70 people estimated to still be in Greece.

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute called on other nations to resettle those they have rescued from Afghanistan - saying they are hoping to get them placed before this forthcoming Christmas.

Lawyers at Mishcon de Reya previously told The Independent they have launched legal action against the UK government after it rejected visa applications from 35 Afghan judges - both male and female - being hunted down by Taliban members.

A child of a female Afghan judge, who is currently in hiding in Afghanistan, said: “Please save my mother. We are in prison at home”.

Two female Supreme Court justices were shot dead by unidentified gunmen back in January, but at the time a Taliban spokesman said they were not linked to the attack.

The Taliban swept to power in mid-August as the US and other Western troops withdrew. The last time the hardline Islamist group ruled the country women were barred from working, girls were blocked from going to school, and women had to be chaperoned by a male relative if they wanted to leave the house.

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