Joint Israel-UAE Mission Rescued Dozens of Afghan Women, Human Rights Activists From Kabul
September 17, 2021
International efforts to rescue vulnerable Afghans after the country’s takeover by the Taliban included the first-ever joint aid mission between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, almost one year after the two nations normalized ties.
The operation brought 41 Kabul Afghans — including human rights activists and members of girls’ cycling and robotic teams — across Afghanistan’s northern border into Tajikistan before flying them to the UAE, the UK’s Telegraph reported Thursday.
Yotam Polizer, CEO of the Israeli NGO IsraAID, described rescuers’ harrowing efforts to gather the passengers from a capital city suddenly under Taliban rule.
“The issue was they had to collect them from hiding,” he told the outlet. “[The rescuers] had to do rounds around the city in alleys to pick up these people and try not to create any suspicious movement.”
Those flown out of the country included a well-known singer, 19 members of the cycling team and three robotics team members, as well as female rights activists and a number of relatives.
Polizer said that after driving north, the group was temporarily delayed at the border with Tajikistan — stuck for two days in a safe house as they awaited permission from the Tajik government to enter.
“The stressful part really was around the border, there were a lot of Taliban in the area, they were not allowed to leave the shelter and we were very stressed that someone might find them,” he said.
Israeli aid workers met the escapees in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, and on Sept. 6, they boarded a jet bound for the UAE, chartered by Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams.
UAE communications official Afra Al Hameli shared an image of their arrival on Twitter.
Girls were prohibited from attending school when the Taliban were last in power, from 1996-2001, with women banned from work and education.
On Friday, reports emerged that the women’s ministry in Kabul had been converted to house the “Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” which had previously run a feared police force that implemented the Islamist group’s brutal interpretation of sharia.