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Afghanistan’s female judges forced into hiding under Taliban rule

Hundreds of female judges have been forced to live a life of fear and anonymity since the group’s August takeover of the country.

Afghan women judges and lawyers attend a meeting with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, at the Presidential Palace in Athens 

For five years, Naima* presided over cases of violence against women in Afghanistan. She heard harrowing accounts of unspeakable violence from battered women and their families. She even saw a man kill his wife before her own eyes during a court hearing.

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But in the two months since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, she says she regrets the 10 years she spent as a judge and the years she took to study law.

“Sometimes you think to yourself: Why did I do that? Why didn’t I choose any other discipline,” she told Al Jazeera from an undisclosed location in capital Kabul.

Like hundreds of other judges, Naima went into hiding shortly after former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on August 15 and the Taliban took control.

The judges had reasons to be afraid.

During its 11-day rampage through Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, the Taliban released thousands of prisoners from the nation’s jails. Among them were possibly men who judges such as Naima had personally sentenced, and who might have ended up joining the Taliban government.

In fact, Taliban leaders themselves have made several inferences to criminal elements posing as them or joining their ranks with ill intent.

Last month, acting Minister of Defence, Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob, specifically addressed these concerns in an audio message, saying: “There are some bad and corrupt people who want to join us … To fulfil their own interest or to defame us and make us look bad.”

Naima says her suspicions were confirmed when she went to a bank last month and one of the guards, clearly a member of the Taliban, kept staring at her. Things only became more tense when one of the bank workers called out her name and the guard tried to take her bank card, presumably to verify her name.


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