A pregnant New Zealand journalist stranded in Afghanistan for months has found the Taliban more helpful than her own Government, which has failed to let her back in. MailOnline has the story.
Charlotte Bellis, a broadcast journalist, said she has repeatedly tried to return to New Zealand since she learned she was pregnant in September.
She has submitted 59 documents to New Zealand officials in Afghanistan in an attempt to secure an emergency return home, but her bid was turned down and led her to turn to the Taliban, one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, for sympathy.
It’s a particularly cruel twist of fate for the woman who was revered worldwide for her fearless questioning of the jihadist group’s previous record on women’s rights.
To add insult to injury, Ms Bellis has warned that pregnancy can be a death sentence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because of the poor state of maternity care and lack of surgical capabilities.
Speaking to 1News about her situation, Ms Bellis asked: “To the NZ Government, I ask what do you want me to do? I have done nothing wrong I got pregnant and I am a New Zealander.
“At what point did we get so bogged down in these rules we’ve come up with that we can’t see that she’s a Kiwi in need of help and she needs to come home?”
Although the spread of COVID-19 has been limited in New Zealand and just 52 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic, the nation still requires citizens to spend 10 days in isolation hotels run by the military.
The ‘zero Covid’ policy has repeatedly come under fire and the strict self-isolation restrictions have now caused a backlog of thousands of people desperate to return home.
Ms Bellis has become one of the most high-profile Kiwis to fall victim to New Zealand’s extreme border controls, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government face further embarrassment over their own policies.
Writing in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, Ms Bellis said it was “brutally ironic” that while she had once questioned the Taliban about their treatment of women, she was now asking the same questions of her own Government.
“When the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” she wrote. …
Last year, Bellis was working for Al Jazeera covering the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan when she gained international attention by questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls.
In her column on Saturday, she said she returned to Qatar in September and discovered she was expecting a baby with her partner, freelance photographer Jim Huylebroek, a contributor to the New York Times.
She described the pregnancy as a “miracle” after earlier being told by doctors she could not have children. She is due to give birth to a girl in May.
Extramarital sex is illegal in Qatar and Ms Bellis said she realised she needed to leave. She repeatedly tried to get back to New Zealand in a lottery-style system for returning citizens but without success.
She said she resigned from Al Jazeera in November and the couple moved to Mr Huylebroek’s native Belgium, but she could not stay long because she was not a resident. She said the only other place the couple had visas to live was Afghanistan.
Ms Bellis said she spoke with senior Taliban contacts who told her she would be fine if she returned to Afghanistan.
“Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us. Don’t worry,” she said they told her.
She said she sent 59 documents to New Zealand authorities in Afghanistan but they rejected her application for an emergency return.
Meanwhile, the toothy tyrant is ramping up the restrictions in a crazed attempt to maintain Zero Covid in the face of Omicron.
Ardern announced a swathe of new measures under the country’s Covid Red Alert system, meaning a return to universal mask-wearing and stricter quarantine requirements for New Zealanders.
The PM rolled out the restrictions after just nine cases of the Omicron variant were detected in a single family that flew to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month.
Under limits incurred by New Zealand’s My Vaccine Pass, those who are unvaccinated will be unable to eat at indoor restaurants or visit gyms or hairdressers.
Any Kiwis working in health and disability, education, fire and emergency, police, defence, and corrections must be able to show proof of having vaccines.
From February 3rd, the wearing of bandanas, scarves or t-shirts pulled over the nose in public places such as gyms and cafes will be banned.
And under new Covid curbs enforced by Ardern, all residents must wear face masks in public areas such as shops and there are limits on gatherings to a maximum of 100 people from Monday after a cluster of Omicron cases were detected in the country.
The changes mean Ardern was forced to postpone her own wedding.
Anyone testing positive must now isolate for 14 instead of ten days – and household contacts have to isolate for an additional ten days on top, leaving them to stay indoors for 24 days.
Worth reading in full.