From when she was young, Rukhsar wanted to become a journalist. However, in a society which traditionally does not value women, this was a controversial choice for her family. She tried to go to school to be educated several times, and each time was prevented by her father. Her father, a heroin addict and her uncle raped her from 9 years old.
Eventually, at 16 years old, her father sold her as a child bride to a man in an ‘arranged’ marriage for $3,000. Fortunately, her new husband didn’t prevent her from going to school and she was able to study until the 11th grade. But he raped and beat her. She was so heavily pregnant that when she eventually went to university, she could hardly walk to classes.
After her degree she decided to help give women the chances in life and worked for the Afghan Women’s Education Center in remote areas of the country, far from her home in Kabul. It was here she taught other women how to market embroidered clothes, often to the wives of Talibs. During this time, she become famous among civil rights circles, and infamous among the Taliban, with her face on TV as an emblem of women’s rights.
With the implosion of the Afghan government in August 2021, her dreams of empowering women in her country collapsed, and even more her life and those of her daughters were in mortal danger. She would try, with her two children, to escape twice during the ‘not so great escape’ from the country. Taliban men searched her house several times, and she has had to go into hiding. Her husband declared that he intended to sell their daughter aged six in engagement to be married at 12-years-old. We moved very swiftly. She and her daughters had passports and we managed to get Visas for entry to a second country quite quickly. The application for Rukhsar’s was refused twice and on the third attempt, it was granted. She and her two daughters were whisked out of Afghanistan within a day and are now in a place of safety, registering as Refugees with the UNHCR.
We were asked by Baroness Helena Kennedy to help with this case. She had been approached by Ruby Wax who happened to be filming in a refugee camp near Athens and met Mohammad who had arrived there some three years earlier. She wanted to help. Mohammad had been working with the Afghan Police, staking out the Taliban etc. before the fall of Kabul in August 2021 so is a prominent target on their hit list. His father worked for the Halo Trust making safe land mines and his sister was a famous national TV presenter. The whole family is on the Taliban’s target list. They all escaped over the border to Iran. Mohammad, his now 4-month pregnant wife and infant daughter made it to Turkey and then to Greece, where they claimed pollical asylum for three years before being evicted with Greek passports at the end of March 2022 to make way for Ukrainian refugees. Flight from Plight swiftly raised 750 Euros to keep the family housed in Greece after eviction from the camp and paying for their flights to Brussels and onward journey to Amsterdam, where they requested political asylum and were put up by the authorities there in a decent hotel with food prior to taking them to the Asylum Centre for processing.
The rest of the family (of six) were less fortunate. They were caught in Iran and deported back to Afghanistan. Shortly after, the uncle was arrested by the Taliban, taken from his house, doused with oil, and burned alive. The remaining five members of the family remain in Afghanistan, in hiding and desperate for sanctuary. The five had no passports. Ruby Wax provided the funds in a sticky situation. But ISIS bombed Kabul’s Passport Office and damaged the biometric reading equipment so there was a hiatus in the issue of new passports. When the office re-opened, Mohammad’s father was asked if he’d a passport. He replied ‘No’. They ran the biometrics and discovered he did have a passport valid for another 8 days. They asked where it was. ‘I lost it.’ He replied. ‘Where?’ They asked. ‘In Iran’ he said. He was almost arrested on the spot as it was obvious, he’d crossed the Iranian border illegally. Our passport people were having kittens. It took a $5,000 sweetener to smooth the problem and get him his passport together with another $10,000 for the five passports. They and others are on manifest lists. We think the father is eligible for a Priority 2 Visa to the US if we get him to a second country and suffer the delay in issuing Visas. P- 2 Visas can take a year or 18 months to process and can only be made from a second country outside Afghanistan. We do not have the means to support the remaining five family members in Afghanistan or in a second country, without financial help.
TAMKINA'S & SAMIULLA'S STORY.
Tamkina was a women’s rights activist and journalist on local radio in Afghanistan. Her husband Samiullah worked as an aviation security officer at Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif international airports. At the time of the Taliban takeover, he received threatening messages from them to quit his job as in their opinion his job was in support of the United States and NATO.
The couple married in September 2021 and just a few days later, Tamkina participated in a demonstration against the Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif. The Taliban cracked down on the demonstration and arrested her director along with male and female colleagues, but she managed to escape.
She went into hiding with relatives and after a few days three of her female colleagues joined her. The Taliban found out about their hideout and raided the house. The Taliban beat up all the occupants.
Her husband’s aunt who owned the house they were hiding in, as well as other elders within the community, pleaded with the Taliban for their safety and to give the new bride Tamkina assistance, protection, and kindness expected in Afghanistan culture. Eventually the Taliban agreed that the group could move on without facing charges, however, if they were found again under any report or allegation they would be executed.
The arrestees repented as well for their past work as women's rights activists and committed to the Taliban to stop their activism. The next day, Tamkina and Samiullah left Mazar-e-Sharif for Kabul and lived in another hideout until they managed to navigate safe passage to a second country. They entered a second country crossing the border on 19 December 2021. They are being supported in a second country by Flight from Plight until we can find them refuge in a third country.
We are evacuating as many women’s and civil rights activists and their families as possible, including people who worked for the Halo Trust, prominent journalists, midwives, and other vulnerable people on the Taliban Special Police arrest list to a second country. We are doing this in small family groups ‘under the radar. We assist them with documents (passports, Visas, National ID, Covid jab certificates etc.) and we help them to register with the UNHCR as a refugee so they cannot be deported back to Afghanistan when their Visas expire.
We carry out due diligence to ensure candidates are genuine, raise funds, send these through [not easy when the banks there are running out of cash] for paperwork, travel etc. and support them in a second country whilst we prepare evidence for application for resettlement in third countries. We follow strict security protocols, communicating only via encryption because emails are not secure, and the Taliban are all across WhatsApp. We are advised by a retired Major General who served in Afghanistan, has an extensive network of contacts there and is a specialist in extraction. He has extracted some 270 vulnerable people so far and rising by the week.
In the UK we have also teamed-up with the Cambridge Refugees Resettlement Campaign who help find accommodation, schooling through local councils etc. for refugees resettling in Cambridgeshire.
To help us achieve this, please contact us, and share this appeal with your contacts. We are aware of some seventy prominent figures and their families desperate to escape. We need your help to make their dreams of safety a reality. Please join with us and help ‘make it happen’.