LONDON: A veteran UK barrister has raised more than $1.3 million to help hundreds of at-risk female judges in Afghanistan flee to Europe with their families.
Baroness Kennedy is working with a team of pro-bono lawyers, and has booked and organized evacuation flights from Kabul to Athens, where many of the evacuees are residing in temporary accommodation.
The first plane chartered by Kennedy three weeks ago transported 26 female judges and their family members, with the next two flights carrying 375 people, including 77 women judges.
Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Greek president and a former judge, was persuaded by Kennedy to accept the families. The Georgian government also permitted their transit.
“These women were in mortal danger. They were running courts on things like domestic violence and child marriage, and many of them locked up Taliban,” said Kennedy.
“As soon as the Taliban came back, they had to flee. We had encouraged these women (to pursue law) and now they were in danger. If every country with a conscience could take 10 families that would be great.”
Monasa Naseri, 33, who arrived with her husband, also a judge, and other family members, said: “There wasn’t a person on the plane who wasn’t crying. We had been moving from place to place for two months and were in terror. My father was so depressed that I thought he would die.”
Two orphaned brothers, Wali, 18, and Wahab, 19, were also on the flight. Their mother Qadria Yasini, one of Afghanistan’s first female Supreme Court judges, was murdered in January.
Kennedy is the director of human rights for the International Bar Association, which trained female lawyers and judges in Afghanistan.
As part of the evacuation process, she also oversaw the creation of safe houses in Kabul and the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Kennedy warned that another 100 female judges remain trapped in Afghanistan, and due to insurance costs it will take a further $1.3 million to evacuate them safely.