The stranded, pregnant New Zealand journalist who turned to the Taliban for help after being denied entry to her home country over COVID-19 restrictions will be able to return after a public outcry.
Charlotte Bellis, 35, on Tuesday said she was offered a spot in the country’s quarantine program and will return to New Zealand next month to give birth to her daughter, according to Agence France-Presse.
“We are so excited to return home and to be surrounded by family and friends at such a special time,” Bellis said in a statement as she thanked Kiwis for their support.
In a searing op-ed in the New Zealand Herald, Bellis detailed her struggle to return home from Qatar, where it is illegal to be pregnant and unmarried.
Bellis did not realize she was pregnant until she was at the media company’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.
She said she first tried and failed to win New Zealand’s citizen lottery to return — then the government rejected her application to return under its emergency allocation process meant to help citizens in urgent situations.
Her only option was to move back to Afghanistan, where she still had a visa to work and live as a journalist.
Bellis, who was working for Al Jazeera in Kabul when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, said she reached out to some of the movement’s members she met while reporting and asked them if it would be a problem for her to show up to the country with her partner, a photojournalist, while visibly pregnant and unmarried.
“When the Taliban offers you — a pregnant, unmarried woman — safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” she told the New Zealand Herald on Saturday.
Her case has underscored the plight of Kiwis stranded overseas by strict virus-related border controls, and increased pressure on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government to ease restrictions.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said Bellis was offered a quarantine spot after her case was reviewed — not because of the intense publicity it generated.
“Her case has been assessed, there is a place for her to be able to return to New Zealand and I urge her to take it up,” he told reporters.