Malala Yousafzai says Afghan women’s rights activists evacuation to Greece brings ‘hope and safety’

Malala Yousafzai has said the rescue of women’s rights activists and others from Taliban-seized Afghanistan has ushered in “hope and safety” to vulnerable Afghans.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s comments come as it emerged an ex-Afghan minister, as well a lawyer who prosecuted more than 2,000 Taliban inmates, were among Afghans to arrive in Greece on Monday.

A private charter flight transported the group of 119 Afghans from the capital of Kabul – with campaigners who worked with Yousafzai among the refugees.

Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist who campaigns for women’s education, said: “Today’s arrival provides hope and safety for so many incredible, vulnerable Afghans, including women’s rights advocates, journalists and Malala Fund partners.

“I’m grateful to Prime Minister Mitsotakis and the government of Greece for their support.”

Many of the Afghans who escaped had been trapped in hiding from the Taliban, with members of the hardline Islamist group hunting for those who were allied with the previous government.

Faridoon Hazeen, a lawyer who investigated people who had links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, was on the flight alongside his wife and four children.

He said: “We had to leave. The Taliban had been looking for us. They went to my apartment and broke everything. They took my elder brother as hostage for eight days, then later they took my younger brother and father. My older brother was tortured and is still in critical condition.

“In helping with this flight the Greek government has proved that humanity matters, and it is playing its role for the people who need help and support. For that, I’m truly grateful.”

Greece has so far supported the rescue of 700 Afghans, including female judges, politicians, artists, and human rights activists.

Amed Khan, founder of the Zaka Khan Foundation, which funded and organised the flight, said: “The children, women, and men on this flight were being targeted by the Taliban, their lives were in immediate danger and so it was incredibly important that we were able to get them out quickly.

“It’s a huge credit to the Greek government that it has been so helpful in facilitating their journey to safety and offering vulnerable people sanctuary when they needed it most.”

The Independent recently reported girls from the Afghan national youth football team and their families, who escaped the Taliban, face being stuck in temporary accommodation or split up because a council says it can’t rehouse them all.

A leaked email from Khalida Popal, the former Afghanistan women’s team captain, suggests Leeds City Council is refusing to provide accommodation for all 132 Afghans in the group, which includes 32 teenage football players, their families, coaches and other staff.

This came after The Independent revealed in early September that the girls from the national football team were stranded in Afghanistan, with campaigners warning “time is running out” and the girls were at risk of “grave threats” from the Taliban and “disintegrating security”.

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