A pregnant New Zealand journalist, who was given shelter by the Taliban after her country refused her entry, is set to return home.
Charlotte Bellis, who quit her job at Al Jazeera after she became pregnant, was refused entry by her home country due to the Covid-19 border policy.
She hopped across different countries before seeking help from the Taliban, the regime she criticized for mistreating women.
In a column published in The New Zealand Herald on Saturday, Charlotte Bellis said it was brutally ironic that she’d once questioned the Taliban about their treatment of women and she was now asking the same questions of her own government.
Bellis, 35, had worked as an Afghanistan correspondent for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network. She resigned in November because it is illegal to be pregnant and unmarried in Qatar.
Bellis then flew to Belgium, trying to get residency in the home country of her partner, freelance photographer Jim Huylebroek, who has lived in Afghanistan for two years. But Bellis said the length of the process would have left her in Belgium with an expired visa.
Hopping from country to country on tourist visas while she waited to have her baby would have cost money and left her without health care, so she and Huylebroek returned to Afghanistan because they had a visa, felt welcome, and from there could wage her battle to return to her home.
“When the Taliban offers you a pregnant, unmarried woman safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” Bellis wrote in her column.
Under Pressure, the New Zealand government finally offered her a pathway back.
The government offer amounted to a backdown by New Zealand after officials had earlier insisted that Charlotte Bellis needed to reapply for a spot in the country’s bottlenecked quarantine hotels. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said Bellis had been offered a voucher for a room.
“I will be returning to my home country New Zealand at the beginning of March to give birth to our baby girl,” Bellis said in a statement. “We are so excited to return home and be surrounded by family and friends at such a special time.”