For the first time, she felt hopeful. Then came the admission stop.

Kabul Luftbrücke

19. June 2023- 4 min read

Maryam: Zum ersten Mal schöpfte sie Hoffnung. Dann kam der Aufnahmestopp.

Before the Taliban took power, Maryam Mozaffari (name changed) had been a department head in an Afghan Government agency, working on gender equality. She organized events to promote women’s rights, developed training units and networked with other women leaders in politics in the Afghan parliament.

Maryam is a trained lawyer. Before working in the Afghan Government, she defended women affected by domestic violence. On the side, she taught rule of law courses for police officers and prosecutors in a project coordinated by European Union Police Mission EUPOL and the German development organization GIZ. 

The Taliban’s takeover of the country changed everything.

“I was always the provider in our family. My children, my mother, my younger siblings depend on me financially, I earned for them too. Now the Taliban are forcing me to hide at home,” she describes. “I sometimes find it difficult to look my family in the eye, we are doing badly and I can hardly do anything.”

She narrowly survived a Taliban attack and is still being threatened

Even before the Taliban took power, Maryam was threatened and attacked by local Taliban networks. Her predecessor at the government agency was assassinated by a car bomb. There was also an attack on Maryam; she survived by luck. For her work in the Afghan Government and with GIZ, she received numerous threat messages.

Maryam and her family went into hiding immediately after the Taliban took power. She later learned that her house and car had been confiscated. The Taliban also searched for her at her relatives’ houses and sent her death threats on WhatsApp. Maryam has changed her phone number and has moved house several times. Still, the threats continue to follow her.

“Just a few days ago I received a call from an unknown number, someone insulted and threatened me in Pashto. He said they would find me and kill me,” she reports.

Shortly after the Taliban took power, Maryam and her family tried to flee to Pakistan – irregularly, because they could not afford the visas. Their attempt was unsuccessful, and they had to turn back. “An Afghan border guard intercepted us, he beat my husband and son. He realized we were Hazara, insulted us and sent us back.”

Since then, Maryam and her family have been hiding at various addresses. Occasionally, she is able to work online for a foreign organization. But her income is not enough to support the family.

“I can’t live in Afghanistan anymore, I’m scared day and night,” she says. “But we can’t flee to a neighboring country either. It’s dangerous to migrate illegally to Pakistan or Iran. And even if we make it,” she adds, “we don’t know where we’ll find shelter and what we’ll live from over there.”

For a year, Maryam searches for help. Then she finds hope…

Maryam has been keeping in touch for years with Cornelia Taylor, her former German colleague at EUPOL, who now works for another international organization. Cornelia has written numerous emails for her, with pages of dossiers, photos, supporting documents. For almost a year, she received no response.

Despite her good contacts, Cornelia can’t find anyone willing to take up the case of Maryam, even though her activity as a women’s rights activist and former high-ranking government official is well documented. Eventually, an employee at Kabul Luftbrücke comes across Maryam’s case, and she registers her with the German Government’s federal admission program.

“I wish I could tell all Afghans who are acutely at risk, like Maryam, that it’s worth the wait, that sooner or later there will be a way for them to at least apply for an admission program. If not directly to the government, then through us,” says Therese Herrmann from Kabul Luftbrücke. “But that’s not true. We had over 40,000 cases in our database last year; Maryam was simply lucky that we came across her. It takes a lot of work to prepare a case for submission to an admission program. We can only do that for very few cases.”

After Maryam finally found a way to submit her case to an admission program, she is contacted by a service provider for the German Government after a relatively short time. Her case has been shortlisted. All the documents about her work and endangerment Maryam had submitted had finally made a difference.

“We were often on the verge of fleeing to a neighboring country despite the illegality and lack of economic prospects. We can’t live here anymore,” Maryam says. “But the prospect of being able to get into the German Government’s admission program gave me hope.”

Then came the admission stop, in March 2023, with no prior notice.

…until the admission stop.

“Maryam took it very stoically,” Therese from Kabul Luftbrücke says.”She just said, ‘What choice do we have, we have to accept this, and wait.'” “Yet she had to change her residence again just some weeks ago because of new threats.”

Cornelia, her former colleague, puts it differently: “I really feel sick when I think about the possible consequences of the delays. A family that could live in peace and freedom, who has so much to contribute to the society they live in”, she says. “Or a completely destroyed family, without a mother, without income and without safety.”