Saturday, June 25, 2022

Ultra-orthodox Jewish group funding escape for abused Afghan refugees

Must Read

UK drill music videos can now be used as evidence in court to link gang-affiliated suspects

Music videos from UK drill artists can now be used as evidence in court, it has been reported. The...

Kenny Omega Was Injured After Botched Dropkick From Kazuchika Okada

Kenny Omega's in-ring skills have made him one of the most sought-after pro wrestlers in the entire industry...

IDLES play secret ‘Brutalism’ set at Glastonbury 2022

IDLES played a surprise set at Glastonbury 2022 today (Saturday June 25), performing their debut album 'Brutalism' in...


After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan this past August, Maryam, a 27-year-old event manager, knew it was dangerous to walk alone on the streets of her home province, located north of Kabul. Sharia law forbids women being unescorted. But, this past November, she decided to take a chance and taxi to a market.

It would turn out to be one of the worst days of her life.

Outside the market, a car pulled up alongside her and doors swung open. “I felt myself being pushed,” she told The Post. “Suddenly I was in a car with the Taliban men. They took me to a house and began touching my body. ”

Maryam, who was wearing a hijab and completely covered in fabric except for her eyes, thought she was about to be raped as retribution for being solo. But then one of her attackers said, “I have better punishment for this girl. Don’t touch her. ”

He reached for a bowl. “It contained boiling hot water,” Maryam said. “He threw the water on me and it burned my skin. They said that if I tell anyone about this, they will kill me and my entire family. Then they pushed me out of the house and said, ‘We don’t want to see you again.’ ”

Maryam’s clothing clung to the second- and third-degree burns forming on the lower half of her body. Once her garments were removed, her skin ripped away and the pain intensified.

Afghan Angels, based in Chicago, is headed up by Americans Mary Bell (left), a Navy special-operations support veteran, and Sarah Lange (right), a civil rights advocate.

“Maryam could not see a doctor because of where the burns were,” said her sister Ramina, 26. “They were on her legs and so close to her private area. There are no female burn specialists in Afghanistan. ”

If she stayed in her home province, Maryam now believes, she would have died from festering infections or at the hands of the Taliban. Fortunately, Ramina had worked as a prosecutor and dealt with members of an organization called Team Themis. Dedicated to getting endangered and abused people out of Afghanistan, Themis helped arrange passage to Spain for Ramina and Maryam.

But that escape plan failed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26. Outbound flights were canceled. “We were at the Abbey Gate three hours before it happened,” Ramina said, explaining that they tried maneuvering into the airport but left when it appeared hopeless. “If we stayed at the gate, we could have been killed.”

The sisters are still alive and now in Pakistan. For that they can thank Themis. The humanitarian aid organization, based in Chicago, is headed up by Americans Sarah Lange and Mary Bell, a civil rights advocate and a Navy special-operations support veteran, respectively.

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of two powerful explosions, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops at Kabul airport.
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of two powerful explosions, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops at Kabul airport.

Seasoned at removing victimized people from dangerous situations around the globe, the pair do work that is funded and supported by a small group of anonymous, US-based ultra-Orthodox Jewish benefactors, along with a group called Afghan Rescue Project and others. Using the funding, the women help arrange tightly timed escapes from Afghanistan and take care of evacuees when they reach safety.

Since August, Themis has helped some 2,500 Afghanis get out.

“There are a couple of high-net-worth individuals who believe that you serve god by serving one another,” Rabbi Mayer Zarchi, who heads up the Jewish Health Organization and represents the benefactors, told The Post. “There’s a belief that no human being’s freedom should be compromised. [The benefactors] put in millions of dollars to make sure that doesn’t happen. ”

Sisters Maryam and Remina were rescued from Afghanistan after Maryam was attacked and burned by men.
Sisters Maryam and Remina were rescued from Afghanistan after Maryam was attacked and burned by men.

According to Lange, “Feeling a call from God to save as many human lives as possible, the benefactors see strong analogies to their ancestors in the Holocaust.”

Themis deploys four types of rescues: Private jet flights delicately arranged with cooperation from Afghani officials, commercial flights (the tricky part is obtaining visas to countries such as Albania and Greece), passage on foot to Pakistan through the Torkham border, and unsanctioned border crossings .

Lange and Bell have arranged 10 private flights since August, all funded by private donors. But such missions have been grounded since November by the Afghan government.

Covert exits are rare, high-risk and reserved for people in imminent danger.

After US troops pulled out of Afghanistan last year, citizens - seen here outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul - raced to flee the country.
After US troops pulled out of Afghanistan last year, citizens – seen here outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul – raced to flee the country.

“A beautiful young woman in Mazar-i-Sharif was being courted by a former [pre Taliban] government official, but she refused his proposal of marriage, ”Bell told The Post. “He forcibly took her to a private location, had her gang-raped, videotaped it and sent the tape to the Taliban, claiming that his ‘wife’ [they were not married] had committed adultery. ”

Under Sharia law, such an act is punishable by death. According to Bell, “Taliban radicals began hunting for her. We moved her from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul [some 265 miles to the south]. We then smuggled her to a series of safe houses on the way to an unregulated border crossing. We snuck her over and put her into a safe house in Pakistan. ”

Private flights are safer but come with their own tensions. On Oct. 11, Lange told The Post, “we had taken off, flown beyond Afghani airspace and needed to turn around. Clearance had not yet been received for landing in another Middle Eastern country. So, not knowing where he could land, the pilot went back to Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport. People feared that they would be removed from the plane. Three hours later, we secured permission to land and took off again. ”

After the disappointment at Kabul’s airport, sisters Maryam and Ramina were re-scheduled to depart Afghanistan via a private flight on Oct. 2. “But they were bumped,” Lange said. “A family being tortured by the Taliban replaced them and others. These decisions are hard to make but we have to give seats to evacuees who face the most danger. ”

When it fially came time for the women to leave, on Dec. 5, preparatory work had been in motion for 72 hours.

Last August, a suicide bombing took place at the airport as refugees struggled to escape.
Last August, a suicide bombing took place at the airport as refugees struggled to escape.

“While the girls said goodbye to relatives, we received real-time information from our trusted contacts at the border,” Lange said. “We needed to find out about roadblocks and checkpoints and every aspect about the 11 hour trip from Kabul to the Torkham border.”

At the same time, Lange said, “a big priority was getting creams and pain medication for [Maryam’s] burns. People ran from pharmacy to pharmacy in Kabul so Maryam could have her wounds properly dressed for the journey. Normally, she would have been in a hospital with a morphine drip. ”

Their brother drove and the maneuver was overseen by a handler from Themis. “We were scared,” Maryam said. “I was leaving my mother and my family. Maybe I would never see them again. ”

According to Lange, their departure from Kabul was timed for a 5 am arrival at the border: “We wanted them to be among the first in line. But there were still thousands of people there and it took three hours to cross – entry is through a chute, with a lot of pushing and shoving. Maryam could not withstand that for long. ”

Rescue groups have arranged food drops.
Rescue groups have arranged food drops.

In a spot that Lange describes as “a gray area called‘ No Man’s Land ’where people go in and call across the border to relatives,” Themus had a representative waiting for the women.

“We sent him their names and photos. Code words were used so that they could identify each other. We anxiously stayed in touch the whole time. Then there was whooping and tears as they entered their safe house in Islamabad. ”

Maryam and Remina currently await arrangements for passage to Spain, which is still being negotiated by Themis. A hospital bed has been put into Maryam’s room, and she is being treated by burn specialists in Islamabad and Israel (the latter via texted photos). A psychologist is also helping her to overcome the trauma she experienced.

Looking back on her ravaged homeland, Maryam can only say, “The real name of Afghanistan is Hell. It is like Hell there, full of hopeless problems. ”

.

- Advertisement -
Latest News

UK drill music videos can now be used as evidence in court to link gang-affiliated suspects

Music videos from UK drill artists can now be used as evidence in court, it has been reported. The...

Kenny Omega Was Injured After Botched Dropkick From Kazuchika Okada

Kenny Omega's in-ring skills have made him one of the most sought-after pro wrestlers in the entire industry right now. Omega has...

IDLES play secret ‘Brutalism’ set at Glastonbury 2022

IDLES played a surprise set at Glastonbury 2022 today (Saturday June 25), performing their debut album 'Brutalism' in full. Taking to the stage in...

Vince Neil documentary covers Motley Crue, drugs, death

In an early scene in his new documentary, Vince Neil walks through the narrow hallways of the Whiskey a Go Go, the vaunted...

Jack Harlow, Lizzo, Chance The Rapper and more to perform at 2022 BET Awards

Jack Harlow, Lizzo and Chance The Rapper are among those set to perform at this year's BET Awards ceremony, with the event's full...
- Advertisement -

More Articles Like This