Activists call out Kiwi journalist Charlotte Bellis over Taliban 'safe haven' comment during MIQ row

Activists are criticising pregnant Kiwi journalist Charlotte Bellis' after she said the Taliban offered her 'safe haven' when she was stranded in Afghanistan.

Bellis has now been offered a managed isolation spot after the Government faced political pressure over her situation. 

The journalist, who previously worked for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, was forced to fly to her partner's home country Belgium after discovering she was pregnant while in Qatar, where Al Jazeera's headquarters are. In Qatar, it is illegal to have sex while not married.

Bellis then flew from Belgium to Afghanistan as it was the only country she had a visa for and she could not legally stay in Belgium much longer. She said she reached out to senior Taliban members who gave assurances that her marital status would not be a problem. 

In a column for the NZ Herald, Bellis hit out at the New Zealand Government over her trouble securing an MIQ spot, saying it was "brutally ironic" as she once had to ask the Taliban what they would do to ensure the rights of women and girls. 

"When the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – safe haven, you know your situation is messed up," she wrote. 

But her suggestion the Taliban had helped her has been met with criticism from activists who say Afghan women after facing violence and torture under their rule. 

Assistant Researcher with the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch Sahar Fetrat said the article was ignorant and arrogant. 

"Hi @CharlotteBellis, when I read your op-ed, I was hoping the level of ignorance & arrogance presented was only coming frm ur (sic) privileged position. 

"Now that I see ur (sic) stories, I can see you’re doing more than that. Well done slapping Afghan women in face+gaining sympathy 4 Taliban (sic)," Fetrat tweeted. 

A former broadcaster from Afghanistan, who is now living in New Zealand, also criticised Bellis' comments. 

In an open letter, Muzhgan Samarqandi said while she understands the issues with MIQ, the Taliban cannot be compared to New Zealand. 

"Charlotte says the Taliban have given her a safe haven when she is not welcome in her own country. This is obviously a good headline and a good way to make a point. But it is an inaccurate and unhelpful representation of the situation," Samarqandi wrote. 

"One commentary on Instagram, reposted by Charlotte, suggested her story represents the truly Muslim acts of the Taliban, which the Western media have not shown. This makes me angry.

"If a person in power extends privileges to someone who doesn’t threaten their power, it doesn’t mean they are not oppressive, extremist, or dangerous."

Farahnaz Roman, a human rights activist based in the UK, told Vice News Afghan journalists are being beaten and tortured by the Taliban. 

"Afghan journalists since the fall of Afghanistan have been tortured, beaten and were forced to leave the country while some privileged non-Afghan journalists were and are welcomed in Afghanistan," Roman told the outlet. 

"These non-Afghan journalists should feel responsible [for] how their storytelling will impact the lives of thousands of Afghan women, especially those who are still [under arrest]. It’s unfair if her story takes over the internet and not advocacy for those who [have] disappeared."

The Kiwi journalist was granted an MIQ spot on Tuesday after a public spat with the Government. 

Bellis has been contacted for comment.