To help U.S. allies flee Afghanistan, these advocates turned to Iran

The female lawmakers were moving from house to house, trying to stay one step ahead of the Taliban fighters they feared were stalking former government officials since taking over Afghanistan last month.

The militants controlled Kabul airport, threatening one escape route. At the borders, security was more relaxed, but most neighboring countries had declined to give visas to the women. And no help came from the United States, which had worked with at least one of the lawmakers.

“We didn’t see any hope,” said Homaira Ayubi, a lawmaker once hailed as a “success story” by the U.S. Agency for International Development for her anti-corruption work.

A convoy to Kabul airport, and faint hopes the gates would swing open

Then, earlier this month, Amed Khan, a New-York based philanthropist who was part of a group of NGO workers and private citizens trying to help the lawmakers, was sitting in a car in Uzbekistan staring at Google Maps when he had a radical idea.

“How can we get the Iranians to save the day with regard to U.S. allies stuck in Afghanistan,” he wrote in a text message to a colleague with contacts in Iran’s government — setting off a complex, weeks-long effort to get the women and their families to safety, aided by Afghans who faced significant risk, advocates around the world and Iran, one of America’s most committed adversaries.

A few days after he sent the text, according to Khan, an Iranian diplomat said his government had agreed to allow the lawmakers and their families to transit through Iran — adding yet another country to the assortment of governments hastily enlisted in the sprawling, leaderless and ongoing global effort to evacuate vulnerable Afghans after the Taliban takeover.

Source: Washington Post

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