Five Afghan women 'threatened by Taliban' arrive in France

The group are to be registered as asylum seekers after a presidential order issued to fly them out of Pakistan

From left, English teacher Hafsa, Najla Latif, president of a science faculty, Naveen Hashim, researcher and women's rights activist, Zakia Abasi, former employee of a beauty salon and TV journalist Muzhgan Feraji arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. AFP
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Five Afghan women arrived in France on Monday, after receiving threats from the Taliban.

A presidential order was issued to evacuate the five women, French immigration authority chief Didier Leschi said.

“Special attention is being paid to women who are primarily threatened by the Taliban because they have held important positions in Afghan society … or have close contacts with westerners,” he said.

“This is the case for five women who will arrive today.”

The group includes a former university director, a former consultant for a non-governmental organisation, a TV presenter and a teacher at a secret school in Kabul.

One of the women is accompanied by three children.

The women were unable to leave Afghanistan on evacuation flights organised by western countries as the Taliban returned to power in 2021.

They fled to neighbouring Pakistan, where they sought temporary refuge. The French authorities organised their evacuation from there, Mr Leschi said.

They will be registered as asylum seekers in France and receive housing while their applications for refugee status are processed, he said.

He said such flights were “likely to be repeated” for other Afghan women.

Afghan women visit Band-e-Amir national park despite Taliban ban – in pictures

Delphine Rouilleault, head of the France Terre D'Asile NGO working for refugees, said the evacuations were “not the fruit of a political decision” but gained “after a hard fight” to obtain visas for them.

The women will be initially housed in a centre run by her organisation, which has also been campaigning for the evacuation of other Afghan women facing a similar situation.

Ms Rouilleault said hundreds of Afghan women were “hiding” in Pakistan.

In 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged that his country would be “by the side of Afghans”.

French authorities say about 16,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan to France since then.

Accueillir les Afghanes, an NGO working for Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, in April said women – especially single women – had been largely abandoned.

It urged Paris to put in place an emergency programme to take them in.

Gender apartheid

Since returning to power in August 2021, Taliban authorities have imposed a strict interpretation of Islam, with women bearing the brunt of laws the UN has described “gender apartheid”.

Women and girls have been barred from attending secondary school and university, as well as being prevented from visiting parks, fairs and gyms.

They have also mostly been blocked from working for UN agencies and NGOs, with thousands sacked from government jobs or paid to stay at home.

The Taliban's discrimination against women was described as a crime against humanity by UN's special envoy for global education, Gordon Brown, who recently urged the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute Afghanistan's leaders.

Updated: September 04, 2023, 3:22 PM