Pregnant Kiwi reporter Charlotte Bellis says she had to ask Taliban for refuge after being denied MIQ spot

A pregnant Kiwi journalist who gained fame after asking the Taliban what they will do to protect women's rights says she has now been forced to ask them for safe refuge in Afghanistan after being denied an MIQ spot.

Charlotte Bellis, who had been reporting on Afghanistan for Al Jazeera, discovered she was pregnant in September while in Qatar, where Al Jazeera's headquarters are.

She then went to her partner's home country, Belgium, as she couldn't get home to New Zealand and it is illegal to be pregnant and unmarried in Qatar.

While in Belgium, she repeatedly attempted to get an MIQ spot through the lottery. Unsuccessful and unable to legally stay in Belgium, Bellis writes in the NZ Herald she had nowhere else she could legally go except Afghanistan.

Bellis said after organising a meeting with senior Taliban contacts and telling them her situation, they said she and her partner would be safe in Afghanistan.

Bellis writes that through a translator, the Taliban official said: "No we're happy for you, you can come and you won't have a problem. Just tell people you're married and if it escalates, call us. Don't worry. Everything will be fine." 

Her hopes of making it back to New Zealand were raised when the Government announced the border would fully re-open in April. When that was pushed back she was forced to apply for an emergency MIQ spot with her birth date nearing.

Despite letters from medical experts saying it is unsafe to give birth in Afghanistan, Bellis received a rejection letter on January 24. Among the reasons given were that the couple's travel dates were more than 14 days away and she did not provide evidence she had scheduled medical treatment in New Zealand.

"I had tried to prepare for this day. I thought I would cry, but I was in shock. I had done everything they asked," Bellis writes in the NZ Herald.

"I thought about sending them a story I did in October at a maternity hospital in Kabul where they had no power so were delivering by cell phones at night. They couldn't do caesarean deliveries and the only medicine they had were tabs of paracetamol wrapped in crinkled newspaper."

Determined to not give birth in Afghanistan, Bellis contacted her lawyer, a public relations practitioner and a National MP.

She says that's when COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins became involved, and shortly after MIQ told her they would be reviewing her case.

Bellis says the timing is "interesting" and raises questions about if they are getting "preferential treatment" because she was taking action.

"The decision of who should get an emergency MIQ spot is not made on a level playing field, lacks ethical reasoning and pits our most vulnerable against each other."

Hipkins said in a statement to the NZ Herald his office asked officials to check if proper process was followed after a senior National Party MP contacted him with information about the case "which appeared at first sight to warrant further explanation".