She fled Afghanistan with her law degree sewn into her dress. Many of her colleagues were left behind

Last August, as Taliban attack Kabul and took control of Afghanistan, they shut down the Violence Against Women Court that Amini headed, fired all of its judges and, she said, froze their bank accounts. At the same time, this group took control of key prisons and released thousands of prisonersincluding some of the men she convicted in her courtroom, she said.

Amini said she felt scared and started applying for asylum for herself and her family to escape Kabul.

“We worry about everything – the situation, our lives and especially our security,” she told CNN in an interview from west London, where she now lives in temporary accommodation. with her husband and four daughters.

Before they fled the house, Amini grabbed a pair of scissors, a needle and thread. She cut slits in the lining of her dress and sewed inside her most prized possession: by her law.

Wherever she ends up, the 48-year-old Afghan judge wants to make sure she brings proof of her qualifications.

Similar documents now mean nothing to her colleagues stuck in Afghanistan, some of whom have gone into hiding. Amina’s friend Samira, who served with the same court prosecuting violence against women, said she is among about 80 female judges still in the country.

“I live like a prisoner now,” Samira, who has not been fully named to protect her safety, told CNN in a Skype interview. “They (Taliban) stole my life.”

Fawzia Amini is considered a judge in Afghanistan.

Change is eroded

The crisis currently facing female judges is symbolic of the Taliban’s dismantling of women’s rights over the past two decades in Afghanistan.

Since 2001, when the group last took power, the international community has promoted legal protections for Afghan women and trained a young contingent of female judges, prosecutors and lawyers to protect them. In 2009, then-President Hamid Karzai issued a decree on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW), which made abuse of women a criminal offence, including rape, forced marriage, and a ban on women. women or girls go to school or work.

Taliban decree orders women in Afghanistan to cover their faces
According to Human Rights Watch, specialized courts to hear cases of violations of the law – like the one where Amina and Samira work – were launched in 2018 and established in at least 15 provinces across the country. nationwide. While the full implementation is flawed and the achievements fall short of what was hoped for, the law be the driving force for slow but real change for the freedom of Afghan women – change was rapidly eroding.
Over the past year, the leaders of the Taliban have banned high school girls and block women from most workplaces. They prevented women from going long distances on their own, requiring a male relative to accompany them for any distance in excess of 45 miles.
New rules for broadcasters banning all dramas, TV plays and entertainment shows featuring women and female news hosts have been announced. ordered to wear a headscarf on the screen. And, in its latest decree, the Taliban ordered women to cover their faces in public, ideally wearing a gown.

And by expelling women from the judiciary, the Taliban have effectively denied them legal use to remedy any of these violations. Amini explains that it has left women and girls with nowhere to go back to a system that preserves a hardline Islamic interpretation of patriarchy.

Judge Fawzia Amini is pictured on an overnight bus ride to Mazar-i-Sharif, from where she was flown out of the country.

It was that terrifying reality that forced her to flee, she said. Amini, her husband and daughters took a bus in September from Kabul to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, driving for 12 hours overnight with their headlights off to avoid detection.

“It was hard for us,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “During that time, we were very nervous about everything.”

From Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport, they boarded a plane exclusively for female judges, organized with the help of Baroness Helena Kennedy, one of Britain’s most famous barristers.

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Last August, Kennedy, a member of the House of Representatives, said she was inundated with WhatsApp messages from dozens of desperate judges, women with whom she developed a relationship through forming a law troupe. monk in Afghanistan.

“It started with getting really tragic and passionate messages on my iPhone,” she said. “Texts from people saying, ‘Please, help me. I’m hiding in my basement. I’ve received threatening messages. There’s a target behind me.”

Determined to help, Kennedy, along with the International Bar Association’s Institute for Human Rights, raised money for the evacuations through the GoFundMe page and charitable donations from benefactors. Within weeks, Kennedy said, the group chartered three separate planes to take 103 women, most of them judges, and their families out of Afghanistan.

The women are now scattered in several Western countries, many of whom are still trapped in legal limbo and looking for more permanent residence for themselves and their families.

Broken hopes

When Amini’s family left Afghanistan, she said they first went to Georgia, and then Greece, where they waited more than a month before receiving documents from the UK to apply for resettlement. They were finally allowed to travel to the UK. But, a year later, they are still living in a west London hotel, waiting for a more permanent place to stay.

The British government has been criticized for failing to convert some 10,000 Afghan refugees still living in hotels, such as the Amini, into permanent housing.

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“I imagined that the world would open its arms and say, ‘Bring me these incredibly courageous women.’ But then my second set of problems arose because we had trouble finding places to resettle the women,” Kennedy said.

Amini and Samira have been pioneers in Afghanistan, leading women’s rights judges trying to create a fairer, more equal society. Now that they are living apart, their hopes for their country are dashed.

“We had a dream of a new Afghanistan. We want to change our lives, we want to change everything,” Amini said. “Now we have lost hope for our country. Everything has stopped.”

Her priority has now turned to learning English. She hopes to one day continue her work in England. Her daughters are attending local schools and continuing their education – a right they would be denied in their homeland of Afghanistan.

For Samira, there doesn’t seem to be an immediate exit 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 think about her future. How can I rescue her? Because life right now in Afghanistan is very difficult and dangerous,” Samira said. “We are facing a slow death.”

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