France on Monday saw the arrival of five Afghan women “threatened by the Taliban” after repeated requests it create a humanitarian corridor for women shut out of public life, an official said.
Since returning to power in August 2021, Taliban authorities have imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law, with women bearing the brunt of laws the United Nations has labelled “gender apartheid.”
Women and girls have been banned from attending high school and university as well as barred from visiting parks, fairs and gymnasiums.
They have also mostly been blocked from working for U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations, with thousands fired from government jobs or paid to stay at home.
French immigration authority chief Didier Leschi told AFP that by presidential order, “special attention is being paid to women who are primarily threatened by the Taliban because they have held important positions in Afghan society … or have close contacts with Westerners.
“This is the case for five women who will arrive today,” Leschi said.
The women include a former university director, an ex-NGO consultant, a former television presenter and a teacher at a secret school in Kabul.
One of the women was accompanied by three children.
The women had been unable to leave Afghanistan on airlifts to Western countries when the Taliban returned to power in 2021.
They fled to neighboring Pakistan where they sought temporary refuge. From there, French authorities organized their evacuation, Leschi said.
Upon arrival in France, they will be registered as asylum seekers and given housing while their applications for refugee status are considered, Leschi said.
‘Hard fight’ for visas
Leschi said that such evacuations were “likely to be repeated” for other Afghan women with a similar profile.
However, Delphine Rouilleault, head of the asylum advocacy organization France Terre D’Asile, said the evacuations were “not the fruit of a political decision” but gained “after a hard fight” to obtain visas for them.
The women will initially be housed in a center run by her organization, which has been rallying for months for the evacuation of more Afghan women facing a similar situation.
Rouilleault said “hundreds” of Afghan women were “hiding” in Pakistan.
In mid-2021, French President Emmanuel Macron had pledged that France would “be by the side of Afghans.” French authorities say nearly 16,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since then.
In April, an organization working for Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, Accueillir les Afghanes, deplored that Afghan women, especially those who were single, had been largely abandoned and asked Paris to put in place an “emergency” program to take them in.