Benafsha Yaqoobi – handout
A blind human rights activist has issued an emotional plea to Western leaders to help Afghans with disabilities, warning some will die without urgent assistance.
Benafsha Yaqoobi and her husband Mahdi Salami, who is also blind, managed to escape Afghanistan nearly two weeks ago.
However, she is worried that Afghans with disabilities will suffer severe neglect under Taliban rule and is pushing Western leaders to take action.
It is feared they will face brutal treatment at the hands of the Taliban, with poor Afghan parents already facing difficult choices over how to feed their children.
Yaqoobi told HuffPost UK she was worried about the “basic human rights” of disabled people – including their access to food and a roof over their heads.
She called on UK, EU and US leaders to create a special visa for women and people with disabilities whose lives are “in danger”.
In the short term she pleaded for help to feed them, adding: “I ask from all people that can hear me to please, please, hurry up.
They need immediate help. “They need support. If you cannot help them, there is life and death. If you cannot have food, if you cannot have a roof over your head, if you are under the risk of danger – how can we continue to live? I think we will die. And they will die. So it’s disturbing. It’s really tough, it is hopeless.”
She said even though she is now in a safe place, she still has nightmares worrying about people with disabilities in Afghanistan.
Yaqoobi added: “Please don’t forget Afghan people, don’t forget Afghan people who have a disability and don’t forget Afghan women.”
She and her husband founded the Rahyab Organisation to provide education and rehabilitation training for blind Afghans.
Yaqoobi said they were beaten, pepper sprayed and at one point attempted to flee under gunfire as they tried to escape the country.
She served in the national unity government as a commissioner for the Afghanistan independent human rights commission (AIHRC).
But as a prominent woman, Yaqoobi feared being murdered if she remained in Afghanistan and is now safely in the UK after three attempts to escape.
Yaqoobi also pointed out that widows were at risk of being stopped from going to work and earning an income, adding: “What will happen to them? What will happen to their children? So it’s necessary in the short-term to feed them, to be with them wherever they are.”