Afghan judges: “When the Taliban arrived, I only thought of fleeing to save my life” | International

Afghan magistrate Helena Hofiany (Paruán, 39 years old) learned on August 15, 2021 that a double revenge was hanging over her and her family. A colleague from the Supreme Court of Afghanistan had just confirmed to her that the Taliban had regained power, and this criminal judge took her revenge against her for sure, because her signature had resulted in convictions for terrorism against several fundamentalists. The second reckoning that Hofiany feared was that of other criminals whom she had sent to Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison, the largest in the country, whose doors were opened by the Taliban when they arrived in the Afghan capital. The judge no longer returned to her house: “I only thought about fleeing to save my life and that of my family,” she recalls. She from the court she went into exile, not without leaving behind almost all her documents burned from her. Her escape ended in Madrid, where she has lived since the end of 2021, she explained this Monday at a conference of the Asociación Mujeres Avenir held in the capital in which five women who were judges in Afghanistan and who are now, or are fighting to be, participated, refugees. in Spain.

Hofiany was expecting her second daughter when she had to flee with her husband and her eldest daughter, three years old. Her pregnancy was risky — she suffered from gestational diabetes — and for 40 days she was hidden in a town near Kabul, where her fears were confirmed. “The Taliban were looking door to door for those of us who had worked for the government.” Both she and the other four judges -Nazima Nezrabi, Gulalai Hotak, Friba Quraishi, Safia Jan Mohammad- who participated in the sessions Afghan judges refugees in Spain: no conquest is irreversible, they managed to leave Afghanistan and reach Spain thanks to other judges, colleagues from other countries who knew that in Afghanistan a woman with power, especially if she was a magistrate, could not fail to be a target for radicals.

With the Taliban newly installed in power, the International Association of Women Judges (IWAJ) and the Association of Women Judges of Spain (AMJE) mobilized. They organized a kind of railway clandestine; a support committee, not only to get their colleagues out of Afghanistan, but to hide them in safe houses until they could cross the country’s borders. This support committee has managed to get more than 150 of the approximately 250 female judges in the country in 2020 out of Afghanistan, according to a calculation by the Norwegian research institute Michelsen.

Broken promises

Judge Hofiany and her colleagues smile almost to laughter when asked if they ever believed the promise the Taliban made on August 17, 2021 — two days after storming the Presidential palace in Kabul, already deserted by the fleeing former President Ashaf Ghani – that there would be no revenge. As Hofiany, none of them waited to verify it because, as Carmen Delgado, a lawyer of the Constitutional Court and a member of the Association of Judges of Spain, pointed out at the conference, they all had in common having practiced criminal matters and sent the Taliban to jail for terrorism.

In Spain, where the daughters of two of them were born – Judge Nazima Nezrabi, the first to arrive in August 2021, was also pregnant – her challenge is now “to look for a flat, something almost impossible without an employment contract”, educate their children who barely speak Spanish and find a job. Starting a new life in which these five judges with brilliant careers —several were Supreme Court justices, others have several degrees— can now only aspire to a survival job while they dream of going back to school “to at least practice as lawyers again ”, they agree. Only two of them, Hofiany and Nezrabi, already have the status of political refugees. Of these five judges, three live in Madrid, one in Pamplona and another in Bilbao, in first reception centers or in shared flats.

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In Afghanistan there are other jurists like them who are still waiting to be able to leave the country, most of them in hiding. On August 8, the association Judges for Democracy (JJpD) and the Progressive Union of Prosecutors (UPF) asked the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, by letter to help 32 former judges and prosecutors who had been found, even today, in Islamabad. The judges reproached the Government for “forgetting” these women.

The revenge of the Taliban from which the eight refugee judges escaped in Spain still hangs over these colleagues. “In Afghanistan, it is very easy to kill a woman,” recalls former Afghan Supreme Court Justice Gulalai Hotak. Neither the judges nor the rest of the women have anywhere to turn, she says, because “the Taliban have erased the judicial system.” “A whole generation”, that of those girls who cannot study after the age of 12, who will not be able to exercise most of the professions or travel without the company of a male relative, “has been left without hope”, emphasizes the judge Nezrabi, who added: “The United States and its allies came to save Afghan women [tras la invasión de 2001] but they did not honor their word.”

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