Afghan refugee arrives in Chile after Argentina-assisted journey

Santiago, Sep 10 (EFE).- Chile’s government on Friday welcomed an Afghan citizen who has been granted asylum after fleeing her homeland via Pakistan and flying to Santiago with Argentine diplomatic assistance.

Zainab Momeny, a 33-year-old university professor, is the sister of Zahra Habibi, a University of Chile medical student who had asked Chilean authorities to help her sibling after the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan last month.

As a divorcee, she would have been at special risk and could have been targeted for punishment by the newly installed fundamentalist Islamic regime.

Zainab arrived of her own accord in the neighboring country of Pakistan.

But since Chile does not have diplomatic relations with that nation, it asked Argentina’s ambassador to Pakistan, Leopoldo Sahores, to arrange a travel visa that enabled her to reach Islamabad.

Zainab then flew from there to the Middle East and on to Europe before making her way to Santiago.

“She asked us for help in coming to our country, where her sister, nephew and friends were waiting for her. This has been a very long journey … from Kabul to Pakistan, later to Dubai, then Paris and finally Chile,” Chile’s undersecretary of foreign affairs, Carolina Valdivia, who received Zainab at Santiago’s international airport, told members of the media.

The newly arrived Afghan woman thanked Chilean and Argentine authorities for their assistance and said she felt very happy and relieved that she can now “sleep easy and worry-free.”

Regarding the current situation for women in Afghanistan, she said it was very precarious and noted that female protesters are being lashed with whips and that “there are detainees whose whereabouts is unknown.”

Zainab is the first Afghan to receive asylum in Chile out of an expected total of 300 people, according to government figures. That number is based on a list compiled by the Afghan community there and includes the families of 10 female human rights defenders.

“We’re making all the arrangements so they can arrive. We’re thinking they’ll arrive as a group, but there’s no date because some have expired passports” or airlines don’t allow them to board flights due to a lack of travel documents, Valdivia said.

She noted that those migrants are in different countries, “some in Iran and others in Pakistan.”

Those who have direct family ties in Chile or are formally hired by organizations are expected to obtain temporary work visas, while the others are to receive entry based on refugee status. EFE


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