As the Taliban retake power in Afghanistan, Women for Refugee Women urges the UK government to step up and do all they can to ensure that women and girls are protected.

It is essential that the UK upholds its stated commitment to women’s rights in practice, above all by offering safe passage and asylum in the UK to women who need to leave the country for their own safety, and also putting resources into local organisations who support women and girls in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

This pressing situation is a clear reminder of the need to uphold the right to asylum. The government should now abandon its plans for the harmful Nationality and Borders Bill and ensure that those who have to cross borders for safety are protected, not punished.

The Taliban’s abuse of women’s rights is well documented. Women who have been educated, have spoken out, have taken part in public life and built careers over the last 20 years are now at risk. It is vital that the international community now stands together to protect women. This is not a time to turn our backs on women. This is a time for solidarity.

Our director, Alphonsine Kabagabo, says:

“It is horrifying to see what women and girls are now facing in Afghanistan. The scene at Kabul airport reminded me how lucky I was with my family to reach Kigali airport in the middle of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi, and to be allowed to board a plane and to find refuge in a safe country like Belgium. Straightforward humanitarian action can change people’s lives forever. I urge the UK government to step up and do all it can to help women who are facing horrific threats to their lives and safety, who are being forced to go into hiding and flee the country in order to survive.”

Rahela Sidiqi, director of the Rahela Trust and former trustee of Women for Refugee Women, says:

“Women of Afghanistan are calling on the world to uphold our rights and protect our lives. Being given asylum in the UK saved my life when I was threatened by the Taliban. Now I ask the UK government to help save the lives of my friends and sisters in this horrifying emergency. Do not abandon us at this time of crisis.”

Update 18 August 2021:

In response to the recent government announcement (18 August 2021) of a resettlement programme for Afghan refugees, read our statement here.