Afghan teacher finds refuge in NZ

1:16 pm on 15 November 2017

After death threats from the Taliban against her and her family, a teacher who worked to build a school for girls in Afghanistan has been granted asylum in New Zealand.

Girls at a school in Afghanistan (file photo).

A file photo of girls attending a school in Afghanistan. Photo: AFP

The widowed teacher, who is in her early 60s, also feared for her life because she refused a Taliban commander's request to marry her daughter.

Construction workers building the school were intimidated by Taliban militia, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal was told.

The tribunal was told that girls' schools were closed during the Taliban occupation, and the woman had returned to teaching after the US-led invasion in 2001.

With improved security and a more open social environment she decided in 2004 to build a co-educational school, as girls usually received no education in the area.

"The local Taliban did not want another school built," the tribunal said in its hearing notes. "They warned against the project and began to intimidate the construction workers involved with it.

"When some of the workers were beaten, the appellant called a halt with little more than the foundations completed."

Read the full decision here

In 2014, a Taliban commander approached her brother asking to marry one of the woman's daughters.

She refused, as the man was much older than her daughter, was already married and had conservative opinions.

She received a critical letter from him, warning her that her daughter must not marry anyone else.

Her daughter subsequently became engaged to another man, though the engagement has since been broken off.

She was visiting another daughter in New Zealand for the birth of her second baby a death threat was received in 2015.

"The appellant's family in Kabul received a letter, delivered to the family home and purporting to be from the Taliban, threatening her life," the tribunal said.

The letter, referring to her as "rebellious", threatened her life, stating that her blood should be spilt.

"She was particularly unnerved by this letter and fears for her children as well as for herself," it said.

"Her fears were aggravated further by the death of another brother who was killed in fighting with the Taliban in late 2015," it said.

"She did not suggest that he was specifically targeted, but his family has since left that area. She does not know where they have gone.

"It is clear that the Taliban has an active presence in Kabul, and that they have the capacity to give effect to such threats if they wish to do so."

The tribunal heard about her plans to build a school on family land.

"Having initially been denied access to high school because of her sex, the appellant has always felt strongly about the need to enable children to have access to education irrespective of gender," the appeal tribunal heard.

"After completing her high school diploma, she undertook teacher training and worked as a teacher for many years.

"This was interrupted between September 1996 and late 2001, during the Taliban occupation of Kabul, when all of the girls' schools were closed."

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