Today
Fri 17 September 2021

A group of lawyers has launched a campaign to secure a visa for an Afghan woman MP in hiding and in fear of her life

The UK Government has been given a deadline of 2 pm on Wednesday 1 September to provide visas for a prominent female Afghan MP and a female judge or face a court hearing. 

Lawyers supporting the two women have served letters before action on the Treasury Solicitor in respect of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Ministry of Defence, and the Home Office. The women urgently need support to leave Afghanistan, where they are in imminent danger. 

The MP, who cannot be named for her own safety, was a prominent campaigner against corruption. Her actions led to a large number of cases being brought against organised criminal and terrorist groups – including Taliban members. 

After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, she went into hiding. But that didn’t stop the Taliban from trying to find her. They left behind a devastating warning: hanging her pet dog. 

Now, her lawyers hope that the clear threat to life will mean a visa is granted to both the MP and the judge so they can safely come to the UK. If not, they will take the Government to court. 

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A Life In Danger

When the Taliban took Kabul, the MP knew it would not be safe for her to remain in the country. She was too well-known, female, and had made too many enemies through her anti-corruption drive. 

However, she believed that, as one of 69 female MPs, she would be recognised by the international community as someone in urgent need of evacuation.

Her hope unravelled when no one contacted her to arrange her departure. As people were evacuated or went into hiding, she lost touch with her Parliamentary colleagues. 

With nowhere to turn, she reached out to a friend who put her in touch with a legal team in the UK. In response to the ongoing Afghan crisis, solicitors and barristers in England and Wales had formed volunteer groups to assist people trying to flee.

Her lawyers, working pro bono, contacted the FCDO more than a week before the UK’s withdrawal, again believing this would give enough time to arrange her evacuation. They received no response. As the deadline for the UK’s departure crept closer and closer, the danger she was facing increased. 

Under the previous Taliban regime, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, women were banned from public life and forced to live under extreme restrictions. 

While the Taliban has said that it would not ban women from working, there have been reports of militants escorting women from their jobs. Women journalists are being prevented from working and women have been turned away from the Presidential Palace building in Kabul. The Taliban has also said women will be stopped from working until it is “safe” for them to return to work. This is no guarantee at all. 

“It should be a matter of deep international embarrassment that these senior officials were not contacted and evacuated on flights as a priority as soon as the Taliban took Kabul and the President left the country,” the legal team said in a statement. 

Her lawyers now want the UK Government to act and grant her the paperwork she needs to leave Afghanistan safely. If they fail to do so, emergency legal proceedings will commence.

The agreement signed with the Taliban in Doha stated that refugees would be allowed to leave the country so long as they have the right paperwork. 

“These women put their lives on the line when they attained their respective civic roles,” her legal team said in a statement. “They worked to protect and advance the interests of the people of Afghanistan. We must not turn our backs on them now. We ask the UK Government to assist in their evacuation by every means possible and ask the international community to join us in our efforts to affect the safe passage out of Afghanistan for all refugees.”

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