Israeli NGO, Businessmen Helped Dozens of Afghan Women Escape Taliban Rule, Report Says

Interior Minister Shaked refused to give Afghan women temporary asylum, saying she didn't want to 'break the dam' on refugees, according to Yediot Ahronoth

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Masooma Alizada (L) and Frozan Rasooli (R), members of Afghanistan's Women's National Cycling Team prepare a bicycle before training on the outskirts of Kabul, 2015.
Masooma Alizada (L) and Frozan Rasooli (R), members of Afghanistan's Women's National Cycling Team prepare a bicycle before training on the outskirts of Kabul, 2015.Credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Dozens of Afghan women have escaped Taliban rule with the assistance of an Israeli humanitarian organization working with two Israeli businessmen, according to a report in the Yediot Ahronoth newspaper published on Thursday.

The report said billionaire businessmen Sylvan Adams and Aaron Frenkel provided the funding for Israaid's successful effort to help the women – the Afghan women's national cycling team – leave Afghanistan, where the Taliban has increasingly moved to restrict the rights women gained in the two decades after the group's ouster from power.

The mission's organizers made contact with Canadian officials during the search for a country that would resettle the refugees, but talks were delayed because of that country's election this week, prompting them to ask Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to give a limited number of Afghans temporary asylum as a way point before they continue on to Canada, according to the newspaper. Shaked reportedly refused, saying she was unwilling to "break the dam" by allowing refugees to get temporary asylum.

The Afghan women were thus sent to the United Arab Emirates, where they have received temporary asylum before hopefully moving to Canada, the report said.

Last month, Qatar, who helped the U.S. with evacuating efforts, evacuated a girls’ boarding school, an all-girls robotics team and journalists working for international media, among others. 

In their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life.

Recently, the new Taliban government issued several decrees rolling back the rights of girls and women. It told female middle- and high school students that they could not return to school for the time being, while boys in those grades resumed studies this weekend. Female university students were informed that studies would take place in gender-segregated settings from now on, and that they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code. Under the U.S.-backed government deposed by the Taliban, university studies had been co-ed, for the most part.

Last week, the Taliban shut down the Women’s Affairs Ministry, replacing it with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” and tasked with enforcing Islamic law.

Across Afghanistan, women in many areas have been told to stay home from jobs, both in the public and private sectors. However, the Taliban have not yet announced a uniform policy

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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