Afghan judges and prosecutors who sentenced Taliban men ask Spain for help

Zobaida Akbari worked, until August 15, 2021, in the department of the Office of the Attorney General of Afghanistan. That day the Taliban took Kabul and this prosecutor, who had pursued hundreds of terrorism cases against the radicals themselves and against local Daesh commanders, had to flee her home. "We went from our house to that of some relatives, because they were looking for us," she says. After weeks of anguish, she managed to leave the country and reach Islamabad, Pakistan. She is one of the 32 women lawyers for whom associations of judges and prosecutors have interceded before the Spanish Government, who consider her situation to be critical.

In an open letter sent to Pedro Sánchez, the associations Judges and Judges for Democracy and the Progressive Union of Prosecutors regret "that the Government of Spain is not responding to this humanitarian crisis in the way that is expected from a country like the our". In their letter, they recall that these women "have had the power to accuse and condemn men, and this is the anathema of Taliban ideology", and that "for too long" they have requested international protection at the Spanish Embassy in Islamabad , no response.

Qudsia Sharify is one of those women. According to what she told elDiario.es, seven months ago she requested international protection from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Pakistani capital. This 28-year-old began her professional career in 2016 as a research lawyer for the elimination of violence against women in Ghor. “At that time I was the only woman working in the justice system in that province,” she explains. In 2018, she moved to Kabul, to take up a position as a prosecutor, which led her to participate in some 40 trials against the Taliban, while she combined it with consulting work on gender research in international organizations.

"In August 2021, when the Afghan government collapsed because of the Taliban, the days of misery began, especially for women," says Sharify. “First the girls' right to education was taken away, the protests were brutally suppressed and the protesters were detained and tortured in prisons. Prosecutors and judges were forced out of their jobs and the judicial system is collapsing as cases are resolved according to the fatwa [ley islámica]”, he explains from Islamabad. The organizations that work to help this group indicate that since the capture of Kabul, the Taliban have assassinated 26 prosecutors. "We're trying to save our lives," he says.

In an Amnesty International report, posted on july 27, the organization agrees in pointing out that “the Taliban violate the rights of women and girls to education, work and free movement; they decimate the projection and support system for those fleeing gender-based violence in the family; detain women and girls for minor breaches of discriminatory rules; and contribute to the increase in the number of early and forced marriages in Afghanistan.” In addition, the conclusions of the study coincide with what Sharify expressed: "Women who peacefully protest against these oppressive norms are threatened, detained, detained, tortured and subjected to forced disappearance."

“From the Progressive Union of Prosecutors we have spent a year asserting before the Government and before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the extreme situation experienced by both the group of judges and that of prosecutors and human rights defenders. For a rule of law like ours to work, there needs to be people who guarantee this public service. When the situation is reversed because there is a seizure of power by the Taliban, it is a moral obligation to protect these people”, defends the president of UPF, Inés Herrera.

"We focus on the importance of protecting women judges, prosecutors and lawyers, because in addition to the condition of defense of that State, they are women who have been judging men and Taliban men", for which They are in a situation of “absolute emergency” due to the risk of being deported when their permits in Pakistan expire. “As long as they cross the border, they are going to be killed,” agrees Ignacio Rodríguez, founder of 14Lawyers, an organization that supports human rights lawyers working in hostile contexts. He has traveled to Pakistan and has been in contact with some of these women and considers that the ministry "is handling the situation with total arbitrariness".

From last August to July 5, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accepted only 796 visas from Afghan citizens, of which 266 are visas for women, indicate the associations of judges and prosecutors. This Wednesday, A plane arrived in Spain with 294 Afghan collaborators with which, according to data from the department headed by José Manuel Albares, "Spain has evacuated some 3,900 people for a year." On the ship, which left Islamabad and landed at the Torrejón air base, none of the 32 women for whom the Spanish associations are trying to intercede were traveling, Rodríguez indicates. From the ministry they point out that "it is not appropriate to provide personal or professional information about passengers to preserve their safety and for data protection."

"The government is abandoning all those people who exposed themselves publicly," considers Rodríguez. In the letter addressed to Pedro Sánchez, it is requested “that the 32 Afghan women judges and prosecutors who are in Islamabad and their families be accommodated on the flights that the Government of Spain has scheduled for the next few dates”. Specifically, they were referring to the one on August 10, but on July 21 another military plane arrived in Torrejón with 63 Afghan citizens from the Pakistani capital, who were received by Defense Minister Margarita Robles. That plane was an A400 of the Air Force, the same model that was used in August 2021 to carry out the first evacuations from Kabul and with a capacity for 140 occupants.

From the ministry they point out that evacuations are increasingly difficult "due to the control that the Taliban are exercising" and that "to assess visa applications that allow the presentation of an asylum application in Spain, the criteria established by the Convention are applied. of Geneva of the Refugee Statute of 1951 and those established by Law 12/2009 regulating the right of asylum and subsidiary protection”, specifically in “those articles that mark the causes of persecution that may give rise to the recognition of the condition refugee”.

The danger these women face has been multiplied with the taking of Kabul, but the Taliban presence in Afghanistan goes back a long way. As of 2020, Fatima Mahmoodi was the head of the gender-based violence office of the Kapisa Provincial Appeal Prosecutor's Office. In that year, she recalls, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security warned her after discovering that undercover Taliban agents were planning to assassinate her. It is not the only case. “On August 20, 2015, our driver noticed another vehicle following us on the way home. He tried to swerve to see if the other car was still behind us. Then he passed by my car, looked at me and shot us”, says Akbari, who does not attribute the attack to chance: “I had already been warned and threatened several times because of my work”.

In April 2021, four months before the capture of Kabul, Akbari received a letter. According to him, the letter read: “You are informed that we have seen you pass countless unfair judgments against the Mujahideen and the Taliban. The Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan sentence you and your entire family to death." A terror strategy that he knows well and against which he fought for years. “After a lifetime of witnessing the ups and downs of life in Afghanistan, I am not naive about the immense cost of my application. As someone who has personally witnessed the prosecution of terrorists in Afghanistan, I know that behind every breakthrough are teams of hard-working, committed people who take enormous risks to save lives,” he explains.

As the Taliban advanced throughout the country, in a process that concluded last August, they released their supporters from prisons. Men I have jailed or helped judge judges and prosecutors. “Now we are in Pakistan, in a very precarious security and economic situation. But, in addition, we are threatened by the Taliban, who have great influence in this country, and by the prisoners released from jail, who in many cases have been transferred here”, laments Mahmoodi, who claims to have been waiting eight months for a response to someone of the emails he sent to the Spanish embassy in Islamabad.

While the wait becomes endless, in Spain they do not lose hope. Or, at least, that is what emerges from Herrera's words: "We are facing a Government that boasts of its actions in the defense of human rights, that is why we believe that our request will be heeded, since it is prudent, rigorous and absolutely in accordance with the law”. Meanwhile, 32 women who have defended justice in Afghanistan with the law are still waiting for a response.

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