Women judges and lawyers who fled Taliban rule refuse to give up

Women judges and lawyers who fled Taliban rule refuse to give up

In the brightly lit lobby of an Albanian hotel hosting Afghan refugees, a group of women gather to discuss how to counter the repressive rules introduced by the Taliban.

The group includes Afghan lawyers and prosecutors who are among about 250 female legal professionals who fled their country after the insurgent group seized power in August.

“We are trying to mobilise the legal fraternity who are in exile in different parts of the world to help and support our colleagues who are still in Afghanistan,” Najila Raheel, a lawyer from Kabul, told The National.

“We’ve created WhatsApp groups of Afghan lawyers and judges, and even students. We are monitoring the situation and we hope to fight the injustices in Afghanistan. We will seek international support to pressure the Taliban to accept rule of law.”

The hardline militants do not recognise the constitution and legal codes established under the elected governments that replaced their regime after the 2001 US-led invasion. Instead, they have issued new rules that restrict women’s rights and freedom, based on their interpretation of Islamic law.

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“Afghan women no longer have any legal rights,” Ms Raheel said.

The Taliban’s rules also differ from region to region, adding to the chaos that exists in the legal vacuum left behind when the previous government fell.

Ms Raheel says she never expected the sudden collapse of a system she helped to build and had put her faith in.

She and another member of the group, Negina Khalil, the first female prosecutor in the remote province of Ghor, said the Taliban takeover had undone years of their work.

“For 20 years, I worked so hard, along with my colleagues, contributing to a legal system that can provide protection and relief to my fellow citizens, particularly women. On any given day I would be working on 10 different cases,” Ms Raheel said.

Ms Khalil said much of her work was on giving women access to the justice system.

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