Amini said she was scared and started seeking asylum for herself and her family to escape from Kabul.
“We were concerned about everything – our situation, our lives and most importantly our safety,” she told DailyExpertNews in an interview from West London, where she now lives in temporary housing with her husband and four daughters.
Before fleeing their home, Amini grabbed a pair of scissors, a needle, and thread. She cut slits in the lining of her dress and sewed her most prized possession: her law degree.
Wherever she ended up, the 48-year-old Afghan judge wanted to make sure she had her proof of her qualifications with her.
The same documents now mean nothing to her colleagues trapped in Afghanistan, some of whom are in hiding. Amina’s friend, Samira, who was on the same court prosecuting violence against women, said she is one of about 80 female judges still in the country.
“Now I live like a prisoner,” Samira, whose full name has been withheld to protect her safety, told DailyExpertNews in a Skype interview. “They (the Taliban) stole my life.”
The crisis faced by women judges is characteristic of the large-scale dismantling of women’s rights by the Taliban that has been won in Afghanistan over the past two decades.
Since 2001, when the group was last in power, the international community has pushed for legal protections for Afghan women and trained a cadre of young female judges, prosecutors and lawyers to enforce them. In 2009, then-President Hamid Karzai promulgated the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Act, which criminalized abuse of women, including rape, forced marriage, and forbidding a woman or girl from going to school or work. to go.
And by banning women from the judiciary, the Taliban have effectively denied them the right to legal remedies to remedy any of these violations. It has left women and girls nowhere to turn in a system that enshrines a harsh Islamic interpretation of patriarchal rule, Amini explained.
It was that terrifying reality, she says, that forced her to flee. Amini, her husband and daughters took a bus from Kabul to the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif in September, where they drove for 12 hours at night with the headlights off to avoid detection.
“It was very difficult for us,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “At that time, we were very concerned about everything.”
From Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport, they boarded a plane chartered especially for women judges, organized with the help of Baroness Helena Kennedy, one of Britain’s foremost lawyers.
Last August, Kennedy, a member of the House of Lords, said she was inundated with WhatsApp messages from dozens of desperate judges, women she had bonded with through her work setting up a bar in Afghanistan.
“It started getting really tragic and passionate messages on my iPhone,” she said. “Messages from people saying, ‘Please, please help me. I’m hiding in my basement. I’ve already received threats. There’s already a target on my back.'”
Determined to help, Kennedy, along with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, raised funds for evacuations through a GoFundMe page and charitable donations from philanthropists. Over the course of several weeks, Kennedy said, the team chartered three separate planes that took 103 women, most of the judges, and their families from Afghanistan.
The women are now scattered across several western countries, many still stuck in legal uncertainty and seeking more permanent residence for themselves and their families.
When Amini’s family left Afghanistan, she said she traveled first to Georgia and then to Greece, where they waited more than a month before receiving documents from the United Kingdom to request resettlement. They were finally allowed to travel to the UK. But a year later they are still living in a hotel in west London, awaiting more permanent accommodation.
The British government has been criticized for failing to transfer some 10,000 Afghan refugees who still live in hotels, such as Amini, into permanent housing.
“I would have imagined that the world would have opened its arms and said ‘bring me these incredibly brave women’. But then my second set of problems arose as we had great difficulty finding places to resettle the women,” he said. Kennedy.
Amini and Samira were once among the pioneers of Afghanistan, leading women’s rights judges trying to create a fairer, more equal society. Now they live worlds apart, their hopes for their land shattered.
“We had a dream for a new Afghanistan. We wanted to change our lives, we wanted to change everything,” Amini said. “Now we have lost our hope for our country. Everything has stopped.”
Her priority now is learning English. She hopes to one day resume her work in the UK. Her daughters attend local schools and continue their studies – a right they would be denied in their native Afghanistan.
For Samira, there seems to be no direct way out of Kabul, at least for now. She fears for her young daughter and what growing up under the Taliban will mean for her.
“I’m thinking about her future. How can I save her? Because life in Afghanistan is so difficult and dangerous right now,” Samira said. “We are headed for a slow death.”