Helena Hofiani She was a justice of the peace in a criminal court in Afghanistan when the Taliban regained power on August 15, 2021. That day, a colleague warned her that they had already entered Kabul. He never returned home. She asked her husband to pick up her daughter, and they took refuge in a house in the suburbs of the capital. There they burned all the papers and documents by which they could be identified. She, as a judge, sent many Taliban terrorists to prison. Her husband worked as a legal adviser for the Ministry of the Interior. When the Taliban regained power, they opened prisons and Khofiani knew they would come for her. He sentenced many of them to prison terms. Pul-e-Charkhi, one of the largest in the country near Kabul.
She wasn’t wrong. From that moment on, the Taliban went door to door looking for those who had worked with the previous administration. For this magistrate, she expected twofold revenge: on the one hand, for being a woman and a judge in a country that was again in the hands of the Taliban, and on the other hand, for the revenge of those who were convicted for their judicial decisions and now roamed freely around the capital. “I had to run to save my life and the life of my family. I fled because I knew the Taliban wanted to take my life out of revenge,” the judge said.
She did so, along with four other colleagues, at a meeting titled “Afghan Judges Hiding in Spain: No Conquest Is Irreversible” organized in Madrid by the Asociación Mujeres Avenir. All of them were criminal court judges who are now trying to rebuild their lives and the lives of their families in Spain.. A total of eight Afghan magistrates managed to reach our country to save their lives. They did it with help. International Association of Women Judges (IWAJ) and Spanish Association of Women Judges (AMJE) who organized day and night to support and save them.
The organization, which has representatives in different countries of the world, has organized to be in touch 24 hours a day and be available to help them and get them out of the country. Just a month and a half after the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul, they managed to withdraw Khofiani to Pakistan. “When they identified people who worked for the government or in institutions, they were killed. Even in Pakistan, thanks to the support of other judges, we had to change seats up to three times due to security issues because the Taliban were looking for us,” he says.
Khofiani was one of the first to arrive. She is 39 years old and has a high-risk pregnancy due to gestational diabetes. Almost a year ago, she landed in Madrid with her husband and another young daughter, now three.
Also Nazima Nezrabi she flew to Spain one of the first, and she did it pregnant. Today, he recognizes our country’s efforts to provide them with asylum so that they are not killed, but shows that life here is not easy for them. “Finding an apartment without an employment contract is almost impossible,” she says, “and finding a job is very difficult if your documents are not in order. Not to us, the judges, but to everyone.” she adds. They all applied for political asylum, but so far only two out of eight managed to put them in order.
More difficulties after the war in Ukraine
Supporting organizations say that in the beginning, when the crisis in Afghanistan erupted a year ago, obtaining documents was more or less quick and easy, but after the start of the war in Ukraine, the procedures became slow and cumbersome. The overload of asylum seekers has pushed these women into the background and is now files and documents take much longer to be approved. One of the main problems, the magistrate also argues Freeba Quraishi, “find housing and school for children.” Also get a health card. Nezrabi, 30 years old, was the first to arrive, has a document (NIE), but has been waiting for a medical card for a year.
Safia Khan Mohammad has two children. Both she and her husband have been judges in Afghanistan and have signed numerous verdicts against Taliban terrorists. Mohammed was at the time 16 years on trial against gender violence. He argues that since the Taliban came to power a year ago, the situation has become “unbearable” for everyone, but especially for women and more so for those who have condemned sexist violence. “The world needs to know that the violence in my country is unprecedented. Hundreds of women were killed in different provinces and in many cases at the hands of their brothers, husbands or fathers.. They convicted them of gender violence, and when the new Taliban government released the convicted, they retaliated. Previously, there was a network of safe floors and shelters for them, but they were dismantled, as were the organizations that supported them. We don’t know how many innocent women are already underground.“, a complaint.
“More than 24 million Afghans live in extreme poverty,” denounces Nazima Nezrabi. “It is estimated that next year they will lose food security and it will be worse for children who not only suffer from labor exploitation, but many of them are trafficked and forced into marriage to be able to feed their brothers. In this panorama, girls and women (representing half of the population) suffer the most.
In Afghanistan girls can only study up to the sixth grade. In addition, they are banned after the restoration of the Taliban regime. They cannot go to high school or enter universities. The order also obliges them to wear a full veil and not to go outside without a male escort (father or husband). “My request to the international community to hear. Afghanistan is part of the body of humanity. If a member becomes infected, it infects the rest of the body. The sense of humanity is alive. Save us from destruction,” Nezrabi pleaded.
Freeba Quraishi he denounced the abandonment of Afghanistan and the women of his country. “Human rights activists have been talking about the fight against the Taliban regime for 20 years and have learned a lot from it. When Afghanistan faces a humanitarian catastrophe, where are they?. Now that my people are under the yoke, no voice is heard from you. We were the ones who got our rights but you told the world it was you. Where are you now? These dark days will pass and we will win. We will return our rights for us and we will not forget that you betrayed us with your commitment“.
We need legal changes.
magistrate Gloria Poyatos, Magistrate of the Supreme Court of the Canary Islands and a member of the board of directors of the IWAJ, recalled that last year this organization rescued about 180 judges from Afghanistan, who are distributed in different countries. Together with their families, they make up a total of one thousand people. But there are still about a hundred Afghan judges who could not be taken out of the country and who fear for their lives. Some of them were killed by the Taliban.
She deplores the difficulty of removing women from situations such as Afghanistan due to the lack of international legal instruments. “The 1951 Geneva Convention was not meant for women or children. It does not include gender as a reason for persecution.” He states that this absence causes serious problems when it comes to rescuing the women of Afghanistan and necessitates a change in said agreement..
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