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‘Their futures are not lost’: Malala Yousafzai’s call for countries to open borders for Afghan refugees

United Nations messenger of peace and Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai on Monday appealed to the countries to open their borders and take in refugees fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover. In an exclusive interview to the BBC, the Pakistani-origin activist said that every country has a “role and responsibility” to help the displaced people.

“We have to take some bold stance for the protection of women and girls, for the protection of minority groups and for peace and stability in that region. I think every country has a role and responsibility right now. Countries need to open their borders to Afghan refugees, to the displaced people,” she told the BBC.

Notably, Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist, was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for her campaign supporting girls’ education. She was later treated in a hospital in the UK. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 becoming the youngest ever Nobel winner.

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In the video of the interview shared by the BBC, she called the situation in Afghanistan an urgent humanitarian crisis. “We are seeing some shocking images on our screens right now. People are just escaping, they are finding a way to keep themselves safe. So, when you see that, you realise that this is actually an urgent humanitarian crisis right now,” she said. “We are living in a world where we are talking about advancements, about equality, about gender equality. We can not see a country going decades and centuries back,” she further said.

The comments came as several videos were shared by news agencies showing many people crowding the Kabul airport in a desperate attempt to leave the country. Many countries like the US, the UK and India are currently in the process of evacuating their personnel and diplomats, which is hindered by the closure of Kabul airport earlier in the day.

She also said that she had written to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan urging him to take in refugees from Afghanistan. “I have sent a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan (of Pakistan) asking him to allow refugees but also ensure that the refugee children and girls have access to education and have access to safety and protection,” she said. “Their futures are not lost, they can enroll in local schools, they can receive education within those refugee camps,” she added.

Appealing to everyone to take a bold stance supporting the protection of human rights, Yousafzai said that the issue is not just about the peace of Afghanistan but globally. “I have not yet made contact with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (of the UK), but whoever can hear me right now, I think it’s important for them to remember that they have such an important strategic leadership role to play right now. And they must take a bold stance for the protection of human rights right now. It is important not just for the peace in Afghanistan but peace globally,” she told the BBC.

Earlier on Monday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) called for an emergency meeting regarding the situation in Afghanistan, during which the secretary-general Antonio Guterres and the US ambassador to the UN also called for global support. US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the US would resettle Afghan nationals in its country and also called for more countries to do so.

Desk Team