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‘Unimaginable Cruelty’: New Zealand Caves, Won’t Block Pregnant Journalist’s Return From Afghanistan

New Zealand will allow pregnant journalist Charlotte Bellis to return to the country in March after being stuck in Kabul, Afghanistan, for months.

Bellis released a statement explaining her relief about going back home along with her partner Jim Huylebroek. “I will be returning to my home country New Zealand at the beginning of March to give birth to our baby girl,” Bellis said according to The Washington Post. “We are so excited to return home and be surrounded by family and friends at such a special time.”

She also thanked her supporters and said she “would continue to challenge the government to find a solution to its border controls.” The Post reported that she wants the government to find “a pathway for other pregnant New Zealand Citizens to rightfully give birth in their home country.”

The head of New Zealand’s quarantine system, Chris Bunny, said they will be allowing Bellis in because Afghanistan is considered a dangerous country even though Bellis did not feel in danger. “We do acknowledge that Ms Bellis considers herself to be safe and did not seek an allocation on that ground,” Bunny said per The Post. “We have the residual discretion to grant allocations in rare and exceptional circumstances.”

The move comes after the government received backlash online for “unimaginable cruelty.”

“More unimaginable cruelty from Jacinda Ardern in her hermit kingdom,” tweeted Daily Mail columnist Dan Wootton. “Pregnant New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis was denied re entry so had to ask the Taliban to allow her safe refuge in Afghanistan. There’s nothing kind about Dear Leader Ardern.”

“The world has officially reached peak ridiculousness on Covid rules,” wrote Bloomberg journalist Kait Bolongaro. “The Taliban — re-read that — is helping a pregnant Kiwi journalist who is stranded due to ‘s insane zero-Covid policy. This enrages me as a woman, a journalist and a feminist.”

On Monday, The Daily Wire reported that Bellis, who is fully vaccinated, was forced to rely on the Taliban for help as her home country of New Zealand denied her requests for re-entry. “This is ridiculous. It is my legal right to go to New Zealand, where I have health care, where I have family. All my support is there,” she said according to the Associated Press

Bellis went to Afghanistan to report on the country’s return to Taliban-control following the disastrous withdrawal of U.S. forces in late August. She famously asked the Taliban what they planned on doing “to protect the rights of women and girls” after their return to power. 

The journalist then returned to Qatar, where she was based for Al-Jazeera, but soon discovered that she was pregnant. She explained her situation in a column for New Zealand Herald last week:

When I returned to Doha in September, I realised that I was a few days late. Impossible, I thought, I couldn’t be pregnant, surely it was the stress of the last few months. But imagine if I was? It is illegal to be pregnant and unmarried in Qatar. Jim, my partner and a photographer for The New York Times, was in Kabul and couldn’t get out. I couldn’t get back into New Zealand.

New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, uses a lottery system for citizens who are re-entering the country. Since the government requires all travelers coming into the country to quarantine for 10 days before returning to society, their facilities are often backlogged with thousands of people waiting to get in.

“With Jim stuck in Kabul, we made a plan to keep everything secret until I was safely out of Qatar and try to get an MIQ spot in New Zealand,” Bellis wrote of her situation. “I immediately started playing the MIQ lottery, waking up at 3am and staring at my computer, only to miss out time and again.”

Finally, Bellis will not be missing out on a return trip home as she and her partner will be able to be together with family for the birth of their baby.

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