Malala Yousafzai Advocates for Countries to Open Their Borders for Afghan Refugees

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Co-founder of Malala Fund and a Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai speaks on stage at Massachusetts Conference For Women 2019 at Boston Convention Center on December 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. Getty Images

The Taliban began swiftly taking over the country over a week ago, and took the capital city of Kabul on Sunday.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai is calling for countries to open their borders to Afghans fleeing the country, which has been seized by the Taliban, CBS News reported.

Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by a Taliban member in 2012 for advocating for the rights of women and girls, talked to the BBC on Aug. 16, saying: “We cannot see a country going decades and centuries back. We have to take some bold stances for the protection of women and girls, for the protection of minority groups, and for peace and stability in the region.”

The Taliban seized power in the country in just over a week, ending with the fleeing of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday as the Taliban took Kabul. Hundreds of people could be seen on video at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on the tarmac trying to flee the country, some even holding onto planes as they took off. 

The Taliban returned to power as the U.S. continued withdrawing its troops.

"My request to all countries, especially the U.S., U.K., and Western countries, is that they must protect all those human and women's rights activists right now," Yousafzai told the BBC.

In 2012, Yousafzai was 15 and had been advocating for the education of young women when the Taliban targeted her. On Oct. 9. 2012, a masked gunman entered a pickup truck Malala was riding in with other girls and screamed, “who is Malala” before shooting her in the head.

Yousafzai, who is now 24, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She then went on to attend Oxford University.

The Taliban plans to formally take control of the country and to rename Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Afghan women are now worried about their rights, as the last time that the Taliban was in control of the country in 2001, women’s rights were restricted under Sharia law.

According to a 2001 state report, women were not allowed to leave the house without a male relative and had to be covered from head-to-toe, among many other restrictions. 

Groups like the Global Fund for Women and Women for Women International are raising emergency funds for grassroots groups in the country, NBC News reported.

“Feminist groups in Afghanistan are currently providing food, medical care, and safe spaces for women and children,” Latanya Mapp Frett, president and CEO of the fund, told the news organization. “They’ve set up schools for girls in secret under prior Taliban rule and will continue in secret if they have to.”

A statement released Sunday by more than 60 countries —including the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and Japan — said Afghans and international citizens who want to leave the country need to be able to and that airports and border crossings have to remain open.

"The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them,” the statement said.

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