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Saving Afghanistan: Baron of Great Britain saves female judge

ATHENS, GREECE – One morning in September, Baroness Helena Kennedy was at home in North London when she received an urgent call from an Afghan female judge. Kennedy, a prominent human rights lawyer and member of the UK House of Commons, is designing the judge’s escape along with 25 of her other colleagues and their families.

One of the women refused to leave without her husband, who was denied boarding because of his expired passport.

Given his noble title of baroness, the judge initially thought Kennedy was related to the Queen and possibly pulling the strings. Kennedy told her: “If you leave now and take the kids with you, I’ll do everything in my power to get him out.” But can she guarantee it? “No,” she told the judge. The whole family stayed. Kennedy put down the phone and cried, as did the judge standing near a chartered plane at Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport with eight empty seats.

For years, these women defended the rule of law in Afghanistan and did so knowing that their future assassins would be rewarded by the Taliban, who offered rewards and prizes to anyone who killed. them, even before they regained power. As the Taliban regained control and the prisoners were released, female judges and prosecutors involved in their convictions began receiving calls sending this message: “We are hunting for the criminals. Friend.”

From her home office in London, Kennedy explains where the money comes from and how she, and her small team at the International Bar Association’s Institute for Human Rights, became a hub for meetings. evacuation.

While the baron is not royal, she is related. One of the largest donations came from a Canadian philanthropist totaling $300,000. A famous person in the UK also contributed a significant amount but did not want their name to be made public. Each of the three planes the baron leased cost $700,000. On the ground, money also helps: Kennedy bought a sheep as a wedding gift for the daughter of a Taliban leader, a gesture of goodwill that facilitated safe travel.

‘WE HAVE DELETED OUR LIFE’

Judges and lawyers had to move from safe houses to Mazar-i-Sharif airport in the north of the country.

There were people she couldn’t name, “great, unknown people on the face of the earth who provided a degree of security,” she said. To avoid trouble at the checkpoints, the women were asked to delete all photos of themselves wearing the judge’s black robes. One person told me: “We had to erase our lives. But there are things they just can’t let go of. Judge Zahra Haidi, 28 years old and pregnant with her first child, recounted how she hid her phone in her bra and sat on her diploma in her car, believing the Taliban would not ask her to come out. They did not.

The plan even involves negotiating with air traffic control and, ultimately, securing the right to allow people to leave the country with just their national identity card. That means the family on the first flight can get on the second flight.

Destination? Athens. Crossing Iranian airspace proved too complicated – they found a bypass route through Georgia instead.

Kennedy convinced the Greek president, himself a former lawyer and judge, to let them in. She said without hesitation that she was “begging, borrowing and stealing” to pay for their accommodation.

“This is Schindler List time,” Kennedy said. “I hope there will come a time when I can say ‘These are the people who helped me,'” she added.

With the Canadian elections now over and a new cabinet in place, she hopes help will come from Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, who was handed a list of all the women by Kennedy. support, pending resettlement.

“Canada has a great tradition of responding to humanitarian crises,” she explains, “I really begged the Canadian government to take in some of my family.”

Ireland, Iceland, Germany and Australia were among the countries that raised their hands.

After many flights, there are now nearly 80 women and their families – more than 400 in total – in Athens, hoping for a country that will open its doors forever. But those are just the people Kennedy and her team support.

NGOs and other individuals also lobbying the Greek government have attracted hundreds of others, including female MPs who have found safe haven at the Melissa Network, an organization for migrant and refugee women based in Athens.

It is believed that 40% of female representatives in the Afghan parliament are currently in Greece. While they waited for a country to accept them, their meetings at the Melissa Network center were about the creation of what they called a parallel parliament.

Shagufa Noorzai told me, “We want to set up an organization to be able to advocate and work for Afghan women in Afghanistan. She is the youngest member of the Afghan parliament.

“Listen, you don’t get women with careers like this who don’t marry men who are themselves (…) judges, lawyers, and professionals,” said Baroness Kennedy. put it bluntly, “these are people who will contribute greatly to any country that has received them. “

The Greek government says it wants to see them settled before Christmas.

Baron Kennedy said there was one more flight she wanted to organize, but lacked the funds.

“This is the truth, and we have to help these people.”

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