The message the IAWJ received from Halima*, a prominent Afghan judge, was whispered. A criminal she had previously imprisoned for murdering his wife called her, "I'm going to come and find you and kill you and your two small daughters." Halima and her family are now hiding in a small windowless basement room in Kabul, with only a mattress and three suitcases. A doll and two stuffed animals help entertain her children, ages 4 and 2. It isn’t safe to go out to play.
Judge Maria* narrowly averted death as well. "The Taliban rushed our house, firing on the gate. We jumped from the top floor to a neighbor's house and hid." Her husband carried his disabled brother. After evacuating to a safe country without visas for her final destination, Maria is still in limbo, pleading for advocacy for help to get resettled in a country willing to receive her.
These courageous women, passionate about the rule of law, risked their lives every day, presiding over the worst cases of violence, including standing up to the persecution against women. Despite the horrific execution of two female judges back in January, these judges carried on in the face of increased threats. Bahar* courageously carried out her judicial duties until the last day when she hugged her three small children goodbye, fearing she might never see them again. She only left when the court security told her the Taliban had entered the neighborhood.
The prisoners are now free, while the judges who sentenced them are trapped in their own homes, living in indescribable fear in inhumane conditions. They aren’t allowed to work, and even the lucky ones who evacuated are stuck in a transit country, desperate for help to rebuild a new life in a country willing to accept them.
Some judges and their family members have been beaten, arrested, and subjected to torture.
In response to the deluge of cries for help, Justice Glazebrook, President of the IAWJ, made a solemn promise to these judges: “We would do all we could to ensure their rescue and that we would forget no one. These are our colleagues, and in many cases, our friends and the values the IAWJ espouses would have seemed empty indeed if we were not prepared to live them.”
In partnership with a network of NGOs, the IAWJ has been working non-stop to provide shelter and evacuate the judges to safety, provide for their needs while in a transit country, and facilitate their long-term resettlement, thereby enabling them to rebuild meaningful lives. While the IAWJ has been able to help many judges and their families escape, there are still some 90 judges and their family members in hiding, desperately waiting for help. After the foreign troop withdrawal in mid-August, private NGOs took on the responsibility for those threatened under the new regime. For most of these judges, it’s the IAWJ or nobody.
The IAWJ is desperate to help them before it is too late. The threat level is increasing, and the Taliban is now carrying out organized raids. The IAWJ is also committed to helping the judges who evacuated resettle in countries willing to accept them – so they can rebuild their lives. They are educated, courageous and dignified women that any country would be glad to have.
USD 5,000,000 is urgently needed to cover the costs of further evacuations, safe houses, food, and medical expenses for judges still in hiding and the costs to help resettle all the female judges and their families.
Aside from the increasing threat level, with winter setting in evacuations will become more challenging and expensive. Afghanistan is experiencing widespread shortages, and access to food and other basic necessities will become increasingly difficult for our judges in hiding. Time is of the essence - hence the urgency of this campaign.
For further information, or to help in other ways, including volunteering, helping reach out to countries that might accept these judges, and for any suggestions, please contact AfghanWomenCampaign@iawj.org.