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HomeLifestyleFashionWoman, 21, dies of leukaemia while in hiding from the Afghan Taliban

Woman, 21, dies of leukaemia while in hiding from the Afghan Taliban

A young woman in Afghanistan died of leukaemia because she was forced into hiding from the Taliban, The Independent can reveal.

The 21-year-old passed away last month because her mother could not take her for treatment, fearing for their safety due to her past work as a judge.

It comes after this newspaper revealed more than 200 female former judges were stuck hiding from the Taliban in Afghanistan last September, with campaigners warning they were at risk of being killed by the Taliban after being removed from their jobs.

Taliban officials also freed thousands of prisoners, including terrorists and senior al-Qaeda operatives, after seizing power in mid-August as US and British forces withdrew, a move that left judges terrified of revenge attacks by former inmates.

Before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan had roughly 250 female judges. While many have since fled, campaigners say around 80 remain trapped in the country.

Nasima*, whose daughter died from leukaemia on 4 May, said: “I lost one of my children – my third girl. She had blood cancer – leukaemia. She was so young with a lot of hopes and dreams for the future.

“I requested many times for us to be evacuated from Afghanistan to save her life. But no one helped me. I lost her. I have lost my whole life. Nobody can bring back my daughter. She didn’t want to die.”

When I cried, she said ‘Do not be sad mum, I am still alive’. She lost the hair on her eyebrows because of cancer but she still had a smile on her face.


Nasima explained that her daughter thought they may be able to flee Afghanistan to receive healthcare in a foreign country.

“When I cried, she said ‘Do not be sad mum, I am still alive’,” she recalled. “She lost the hair on her eyebrows because of cancer but she still had a smile on her face.

“I didn’t want my daughter to die because of my job as a female judge. That is why I could not take the risk of taking my daughter for treatment in hospital. I can’t put all my family at risk if the Taliban recognise me.”

Before the Taliban seized power, Nasima sent members of the Taliban and Isis to jail in her role as a judge.

“We sent kidnaping groups to prison,” she said. “All the criminals whose cases I gave a verdict on were released from jail. They can easily find me which would be very dangerous for me and my family.”

Nasima said she is recognisable among some Afghans for her role in supporting women’s rights. When the Taliban captured Kabul, she was forced to flee her home, she said.

“I was displaced from my own house which I had memories in with my family, especially with my daughter who is no longer alive.”

She explained she moved into her relatives’ home but they treated her badly due to being scared the Taliban would arrest them.

“The world must know what Afghan women are suffering with the Taliban in government,” Nasima added. “They closed schools for girls. They have eliminated us from politics, and they stop our salaries. Why is the world silent about our situation?”

She said some fellow female judges who applied to be resettled in the UK have received reference numbers for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme.

“The website for refuge clearly mentioned this visa is for those who were judges or worked in past government roles,” she said. “When we get this number, what should we do with this? We want to process our cases.

“Do you want to see our dead bodies which have been killed by the Taliban. If no, why don’t you process our documents? I tell this sad story as a mother to all who have feeling.”

The Taliban has tightened restrictions on women since regaining power from the western-backed democratic government, blocking them from the workplace and secondary education and barring them from all sports. Last month, women and older girls were ordered to cover their faces while out in public and to remain at home where possible.

Marzia Babakarkhail, who previously worked as a family court judge in Afghanistan but now lives in Manchester, said imprisoned terrorists and divorced husbands were now “free, powerful and have guns”.

She added: “In these cases, if any of them find their address, what will they do with them? It is clear they could kill you in order to seek revenge and more importantly, stop future women from taking part in activism.

“Unfortunately, we hear sad stories from those 80 Afghan women judges who are left in Afghanistan every day. Because the Taliban can do anything with their enemies.”

Ms Babakarkhail has accused the Taliban of trying to kill her in Afghanistan in 1997 and again in Pakistan in 2007.

She said female judges with reference numbers for the ARAP scheme had seen no progress with their visa applications.

“They are in such a bad situation [and] in dire need of help,” she said. “Why do their lives not matter to anyone? Please do not count us just as numbers. We are human beings. We are a part of your world and we fought for equality. I ask for action, not sympathy.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said it was not able to comment “on individual ARAP applications”.

“We have relocated over 9,400 individuals and their dependents to the UK since the ARAP scheme began,” they added.

“We continue to progress applications as quickly as possible, recognising processing time can vary given the complexities of individual circumstances such as location, access to IT, employment history, security checks or family circumstances.”

*Name changed to protect her identity

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