Pregnant Reporter Turned To Taliban For Help After Home Country’s COVID Restrictions Prevent Her Return

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Sebastian Hughes Politics Reporter
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A pregnant journalist in Afghanistan said she turned to the Taliban for help when New Zealand’s COVID-19 travel policy would not allow her to go home to give birth.

Charlotte Bellis, who was deployed by Al Jazeera to Afghanistan, discovered she was pregnant after returning to her home base of Doha, Qatar, in September 2020, she wrote in the NZ Herald. As an unmarried woman, Bellis’ pregnancy was illegal in the country and she was soon told “to get married or get out of the country as soon as possible.”

New Zealand currently allows citizens and permanent residents to enter the country, but they must quarantine for 10 days in hotels, BBC News reported. The high demand for these facilities, however, means large sums of citizens have been left stranded abroad.

Bellis said New Zealand’s government rejected her application to return home in a Jan. 24 email, which alleged that she “did not provide any evidence” that “you have a scheduled medical treatment in New Zealand,”  that it is “time-critical” and that “you cannot obtain or access the same treatment in your current location.”

Bellis and her partner, a Belgian photojournalist, are currently stranded in Afghanistan because it is the only country they have visas for, she wrote. Before traveling to Kabul, Bellis said she set up a meeting with the Taliban to ask if she would be safe there.

“You can come and you won’t have a problem. Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us,” she said unnamed Taliban officials told her. (RELATED: Afghan Women Are Now Forbidden From Driving Long Distances Alone)

“When the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” she wrote of the situation.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins defended the country’s health policy and stated there was a place for “people with special circumstances,” like Bellis, BBC News reported. He said the system had “served New Zealand exceptionally well, saved lives and hospital admissions and kept our health system from being swamped.”

Hipkins added that New Zealand officials invited Bellis to reapply for a visa under a separate emergency category, BBC News reported. Bellis said she has been offered asylum in another country since taking her story public.

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