Women prosecutors who fled the Taliban find asylum in Spain
STORY: “My name is Obaida Sharar. I'm a woman from Afghanistan. Before Taliban took the power I was a prosecutor."
Obaida Sharar once specialized in gender violence.
Her work - and the work of her female peers - was dangerous in Afghanistan.
She's one of 19 female prosecutors who have found asylum in Spain after the Taliban's return to power.
But she and many others say they feel abandoned by Western governments and international organizations.
"This is very painful for us. We worked for humanity. We worked for the rule of law, we worked for justice. But because of our work, because of our duty, because we work for humanity, now we are the guilty. Now we have to flee from our country, now we have to stay at home doing nothing, we have to cover our faces, wear burka or something else, because we are women."
Women's rights in Afghanistan were abruptly curtailed in 2021 with the arrival of the Taliban.
It has since banned most female aid workers - and stopped women and girls from attending high school and university.
Female judges and prosecutors were threatened -
and became the target of revenge attacks as they tried and convicted men accused of gender crimes, including rape and murder.
This prosecutor only gave the initials S.M. out of fear for her safety.
“I was the only female prosecutor in the province, where people are Pashtun, I had received threats from Taliban members and the criminals who I had sent to prison, also from their families and warnings from my own family. Even my husband received threat calls, and calls from his family who tried to convince him to stop me because I was not a good example for their wives. Their wives will learn the way to fight for their rights and may put them in prison. My husband was an open-minded person."
S.M. and Sharar were part of a group of 32 women judges and prosecutors that left Afghanistan - only to be stuck in Pakistan for a year, trying to find asylum.
Monika Frackowiak is a Polish judge who advocated for them.
“They are so brave because, to become a prosecutor in Afghanistan, that was so difficult for them and to become a lawyer and an activist, they had to fight sometimes with members of their families, with colleagues, with the culture. And the terrible thing is that they were fighting for civilization in Afghanistan and now they seem to be forgotten, so this is really, really terrible.”
Ignacio Rodriguez says the women had been held up as symbols of democratic success... only to be discarded.
He works for a non-governmental organization that defends prosecuted lawyers.
“The international community has manipulated the integration of women in the judicial system. They have presented it as their accomplishment, but when the Taliban have regained power, these women have been abandoned.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told Reuters it was not in a position to comment on specific cases.
And though she now feels safe with her asylum in Spain...
Sharar says she can't enjoy her new life knowing women back home are still suffering.
“I am free. Here I'm safe. I can go anywhere. I can wear any kind of dress that I want. I can do anything I want, but there are lots of women living in Afghanistan and they are sentenced to be inside their houses, inside the walls and this is not still, I cannot enjoy for my life because the women in my country they are not free. They cannot do anything.”