Facing Death, Evacuation Race on for Afghan Women Judges

Tens of thousands could be left behind in Kabul as Taliban says no more Afghans can evacuate
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2021 8:45 AM CDT
Tens of Thousands Could Be Left Behind in Kabul: Diplomat
A US Air Force airman guides evacuees to board a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday.   (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force via AP)

A retired US judge working 20 hours a day to evacuate some 250 female judges and their families from Afghanistan says her network is quickly running out of time. President Biden said Tuesday that he would stick to the Aug. 31 deadline for removing Americans and endangered Afghans from the Taliban-controlled country, where female judges face death threats from militants and the freed criminals they imprisoned. That same day, a spokesman said the Taliban would no longer allow the evacuation of Afghans; the group said it was "not happy" about the evacuations, as doctors and academics should stay in the country to work, per CNN. The spokesman said these people would now be blocked from Kabul's airport.

Though White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Afghans prioritized by the US to leave the country shouldn't be affected, female Afghan judges could face death as a result, retired Vermont family court judge Patricia Whalen, part of a network of judges, foreign ministries, congressional staff, and nonprofits around the world assisting Afghanistan’s female judges, tells NBC News. Some female judges say they've received threatening letters at their homes. One letter said the judge would be put to death for violating Shariah and Islamic law, unless she participated in jihad against Americans, says Lisa Walsh, another US judge assisting the evacuation effort, per NBC.

"We could have all the planes in the world land at that airport, but getting to the tarmac is almost impossible," says Whalen. "If we had three months, it would still be hard, but at least we could [do it]," she adds of the necessary evacuations. With next week's deadline, "we don't have time." A diplomat in Kabul tells CNN that there is "an evident disconnect between the reality and the politics" and tens of thousands of people may be left behind after Aug. 31. That may include Afghans who worked for foreign missions, per the Guardian. The US has already evacuated some 58,700 people since Aug. 14, per CNN. The Taliban has not said publicly whether it will permit female judges, who were banned under its previous rule. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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