Taliban Grants Pregnant NZ Journalist ‘Safe Haven’ After Ardern Government Denies Her Return Visa

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.
February 1, 2022 Updated: February 1, 2022

A pregnant New Zealand (NZ) journalist said she had to turn to the Taliban for help after her country refused to grant her a travel exemption due to its strict COVID-19 border control.

In a column published in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, Charlotte Bellis, a former journalist with Al Jazeera, said she discovered she was pregnant in Qatar, where sex outside marriage is illegal.

She then contacted the Taliban to ask if she would be welcome in Afghanistan as an unmarried pregnant woman as it was the only place she and her partner, Jim Huylebroek, had visas to live.

“We’re happy for you, you can come and you won’t have a problem,” Bellis quoted the Taliban officials as saying in response to her request. “They also said, ‘Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.’”

“When the Taliban offers you— a pregnant, unmarried woman—safe haven, you know your situation is messed up.”

Bellis said she had sent 59 documents to New Zealand authorities in Afghanistan but they deactivated her application for an emergency return. The reasons were the couples’ travel dates were “more than 14 days out” and Bellis failed to prove she had a time-critical scheduled medical treatment in New Zealand and that she cannot get the same treatment where she was, which, in this case, was Afghanistan.
“I wasn’t triggered by the disappointment and uncertainty, but by the breach of trust. That in my time of need, the New Zealand Government said you’re not welcome here,” Bellis wrote.

“I thought back to August, and how brutally ironic it was, that I had asked the Taliban what they would do to ensure the rights of women and girls. And now, I am asking the same question of my own government.”

After going public with her situation and preparing a legal response, Bellis said she had received an “unsolicited” email from the NZ authority which said her rejected application was under review.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins has defended New Zealand’s strict border control, saying there are places in the country’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) for people with special circumstances like Bellis.

The controversy comes as New Zealand’s state-run quarantine system faces heightened criticism as Kiwis struggle to return to their country through the MIQ lottery or on emergency grounds.

New Zealand’s National Party has recently reiterated their call for the Government to immediately end its MIQ requirement for vaccinated Kiwis stranded offshore.

“The reality is, the risk has changed. If you don’t have a set of responses that change to the environment you’re in… The risk can go up or down, it’s about risk management, essentially,” National leader Christopher Luxon said on Tuesday.

Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.