Top Afghan woman prosecutor granted Italian citizenship: Minister

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Italy has granted citizenship to Afghanistan’s first woman chief prosecutor after she fled the Taliban takeover of her war-torn country, a minister said on Thursday.

Maria Bashir, 51, was evacuated in September after the United States withdrew its last troops on August 30.

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As chief prosecutor in the western province of Herat since 2009, she had battled corruption, violence against women and child marriage.

The US State Department recognized her with an award in 2011 for showing courage in the face of Taliban threats, and Time magazine listed her among its 100 most influential people the same year.

Justice Minister Marta Cartabia said Italy, through giving her Italian nationality, wanted to show its “support to all the other Afghan women, who continue to fight for their freedom and rights at a high price”.

Cartabia had welcomed Bashir when she landed in Italy on September 9.

As it approved the decision late on Wednesday, Italy’s cabinet said Bashir had “worked closely with the Italian authorities while they were in (Afghanistan), contributing to reinforcing institutions and, more generally, the rule of law”.

In comments relayed by the ANSA news agency, Bashir said she was “honored” and hoped to be able to continue working for Afghan women, “with the help of our Italian friends”.

Bashir lived under Taliban rule in the 90s, which she described in 2010 to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as “a particularly grim time for women”.

“Everybody was scared to go to work and I, too, had to stay at home. So, I started a secret school at home, for the neighborhood girls,” she told the UN body.

Italy was one of five countries most involved with NATO’s US-led mission in Afghanistan along with Germany, Britain and Turkey.

In early September, Rome said it had evacuated almost 5,000 Afghans following the Taliban takeover.

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