A young female activist tells ITV News she fears reprisals from the Taliban if she stays in Kabul for her work with international human rights' organisations
A women's rights activist has told ITV News how she is being forced to flee Afghanistan fearing for her life, despite desperately wanting to stay in the country she loves.
The young woman, who ITV News is not naming for her own safety, never thought she would have to leave her beloved country but now fears she is top of the Taliban ‘hit list’ for her work with international human rights organisations. Since the Taliban seized the capital of Kabul on Sunday, she says she has been in one room, her phone "stuck" to her hand, "contacting everyone" she knows in a desperate effort to escape.
On the day she contacted ITV News, she said she has "cried most of the night", with concern for her parents and brothers exacerbating her worry.
She told ITV News she does not want to leave Afghanistan but with the extremists in control, she says she has no choice, having worked as an activist for human rights organisations.
"It is not an easy time to look at your mum's face, my brother's face," she says. "I never, ever wanted to leave Afghanistan, and now I'm forced to leave the country. I am forced. It is not my decision, still, to leave the country." But she says her life is in danger if she stays.
A plane carrying British nationals and Afghans from Afghanistan lands at Brize Norton Royal Air Force station on Tuesday night as the evacuation continues
"Rather than dying, I think it would be more meaningful to stay alive and take our message to the world and make something good, so that everyone could be rescued," she says. She says her family are not safe in their home, her brother who also worked as an activist, is hiding in the basement.
She fears the knock on the door and the Taliban searching their home for evidence of them working for international agencies. "If (documents) can show I have ever been an employee of any of the international agencies or if my brothers have been employees... If the information is in here, and if we are a threat to the Taliban, they will definitely check this and will definitely be brutal," she said. The activist told us her mum said with tears in her eyes: "I wish you had never begun working... I wish today you were safe. Like every other ordinary girl of Afghanistan." She lives just an hour's drive from Kabul's international airport, but her escape route is blocked by Taliban checkpoints.
The Taliban have said they will allow women's rights within Islamic law, a vague statement and, with the militants' strict interpretation of Sharia law, not a very reassuring one for women, girls, ethnic minorities or people who have worked for international agencies.
In their last incarnation, the Taliban's rule included severe restrictions on women as well as stonings, amputations and public executions.
The Taliban are claiming this time, they would honour women’s rights and encourage female education. But our source says this is pure PR from the militants for the benefit of the world's gaze - once the west's looks the other way, she says, Afghans like her will feel the full force of their brutality.
"They won't change, they won't change," our activist said. "I see Taliban is the most dangerous people of the world."
"They are letting us be safe today. They are giving you positive image to media, but tomorrow they won't let anyone be safe. They will do what they want to do. "Most people may think they are changing. They are better than before, but I tell you, and I tell the world that they won't change." She is particularly concerned at what the Taliban's leadership means for the rights of women and girls, rights that disappeared the moment the militants took control of Kabul's government, and what this means for those who seized the opportunities the last 20 years had given them.
CNN reporter Clarissa Ward spoke to one woman in Kabul in hiding from the Taliban
"What women lose... what they have achieved, especially in terms of women's rights. We achieved a lot. Most women were in offices now, holding senior positions here, but now the Taliban is coming. Will they have the same opportunities or not?" A relative who had been to the airport hoping to "sneak" onto one of the planes said they had seen Taliban members beating young men nearby.
This is the world that Afghans, like this young woman, are desperate to flee or face a terrifying future.