Masooma, an Afghan judge, who convicted a Taliban fighter for killing his wife, has been living in fear and hiding since the fall of Kabul as the miscreant she sentenced, now roams free.
The female judge told BBC that she sentenced the Taliban member to 20 years of imprisonment. As the case closed, the Taliban fighter told Masooma that he would hunt her down and murder her the same way he did his wife. The harrowing words held little weight for Masooma until they became a very real possibility as she started receiving death threats from the same man.
A BBC investigation revealed that Masooma was one of at least 220 female judges, who have ironically become symbolic prisoners to the very criminals they put behind bars. The 220 female judges are confirmed to be in hiding. The media outlet spoke to six judges who have abandoned their homes and live like nomads, moving from place to place in search of safety. Their old homes have also been visited by the Taliban.
Another judge, Sana has received 20 threats from Taliban and ISIS criminals so far. A male relative who went to retrieve personal items from her former home, was brutally beaten by Taliban who were hunting for Sana.
Similar terror overcame Asmaa, who became a judge to serve her country but has been living in a safe house since the Taliban came to power. Asmaa told BBC that she worked for the family affairs court and often dealt with backlash from the Taliban, which included rockets being launched at the courts as well.
An Afghan Taliban spokesperson meanwhile has distanced the group from reports of female judges being harassed by their fighters. Secretary to the Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi told the BBC that women judges and their families should be able to live freely like any other family in Afghanistan. He reiterated that the group had declared ‘general amnesty’ for all government and civil workers who had served during the US foreign occupation. Karimi however added that ‘the working conditions and opportunities’ for women judges to continue working were still under discussion.
The female judges told BBC that they were looking for a way out of Afghanistan. A former Afghan judge, Marzia Babakarkhail, who has been living in the United Kingdom (UK) has insisted on the urgent evacuation of female judges from her home country. Bababarkhail said it was disturbing to receive calls from former judges who feared they would be killed soon.
The news outlet further noted that countries including New Zealand and the UK have said they would help the judges. Masooma, however, has felt that prospects of timely help were grim. She has questioned whether her only crime was to be an educated advocate for women who sought justice. For now, she continues to live in financial ruins and fear with her young son, who she said was mortified by the threats they faced.