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J.K. Rowling, the silent gesture of solidarity: she saved the lives of a hundred Afghan lawyers

The writer and creator of the Harry Potter saga was instrumental in ensuring that they and their families fled after being targeted by the Taliban.

Since the Taliban returned to the leadership of Afghanistan, the condition of women has deteriorated dramatically. Within a year and a half, they were once again confined to their homes, denied a university education and many of the freedoms they had so painstakingly managed to gain. In those dramatic days of August 2021, many Afghan women who had held key roles in society ended up in the crosshairs of the Taliban. Among them were a hundred lawyers and judges, saved only by the intervention of some foreign philanthropists: one of them was J.K. Rowling.

The British writer was instrumental in helping these women and their families escape from Afghanistan. The call for help came from Baroness Helena Kennedy, director of the International Bar Association's Institute of Human Rights. In those convulsive days following the withdrawal of American and British troops from the country, Rowling received a phone call from the human rights advocate explaining how these women were high on the Taliban's list of people to be eliminated. And she immediately agreed to help out, involving other philanthropists in the venture, including entrepreneur Michael Hintze.

'It was a Schindler's List moment,' the baroness told the Daily Mail. Within a few days, they managed to raise the money needed to hide the lawyers and smuggle them to Kabul airport, where three chartered planes were waiting for them. In total, their intervention helped save 508 people. As much as £4 million was needed to carry out the operation. Baroness Kannedy said that Rowling gave her 'hundreds of thousands of pounds, a very significant sum, to pay for people's hostel accommodation and living expenses'.

A gesture of solidarity that the creator of the Harry Potter stories has never spoken of in public. Unveiling the writer's important contribution was David Alton. During a speech in the House of Lords, the politician said that thanks to the 'spontaneous, generous and substantial' help of Rowling, Hintze and others, 'many lives have been saved'. When the news came out, many pointed out the writer's kind gesture. But there was no shortage of criticism from those who recalled the transphobic statements of recent years. Whichever way you look at it, the important initiative remains, and the fact that it helped more than a hundred women and their families escape from a liberticidal regime.


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