Taliban 'Welcomes' Pregnant Reporter Denied Reentry to New Zealand Amid COVID Protocols

A pregnant New Zealand reporter turned to the Taliban for help after she was rejected entry into her own country because of strict COVID-19 protocols.

Charlotte Bellis, 35, is 25 weeks pregnant and living in Afghanistan with her partner, Belgian photojournalist Jim Juylebroek, to cover the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Associated Press reported. She applied to return to New Zealand to give birth to her daughter, but the country denied her request because of the ongoing harsh COVID-19 protocols, which has sparked backlash.

Bellis was a reporter for Al Jazeera and was sent to Afghanistan on assignment to cover the war. When she found out she was pregnant at her home base in Doha, Qatar, her partner was stuck in Kabul and she couldn't get back into New Zealand because of the COVID-19 border protocols.

In her article she wrote for The New Zealand Herald on Friday, Bellis said she asked her doctor in Doha, hypothetically, would she call the police if she was pregnant. Her doctor told her, "I won't, but I can't treat you and I can only say you need to get married or get out of the country as soon as possible."

It's illegal to be pregnant and unmarried in Qatar and Bellis resigned from her position in November because of it, according to the Associated Press.

Bellis needed to get out of Doha and was trying to enter New Zealand via a lottery-style system and applied for an emergency visa, but was rejected. The AP reported Bellis headed back to Afghanistan as it's the only place she and her partner had visas to live.

In the article, Bellis said she reached out to a senior contact in the Taliban and asked if she was unable to return to New Zealand and came to Kabul while pregnant would they have a problem.

The Taliban told Bellis she didn't need to worry. "No we're happy for you, you can come and you won't have a problem. Just tell people you're married and if it escalates, call us. Don't worry. Everything will be fine."

"When the Taliban offers you—a pregnant, unmarried woman—safe haven, you know your situation is messed up," Bellis said in the article.

In a fight to get back to New Zealand before she was 30 weeks pregnant, Bellis said she had fears of having the baby early in Afghanistan where treatment would likely be "a warm blanket and a prayer," she said in the Herald. "Here, getting pregnant can be a death sentence."

Bellis said while she and her partner have not been approved to return to New Zealand, the government has quietly overturned their denied application and are now reviewing it.

Bellis told the Associated Press she has been vaccinated three times and is ready to go into mandatory isolation once she arrives in New Zealand.

​​"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 told the AP.

Charlotte Bellis Unable to Return New Zealand
In this recent photo provided by Charlotte Bellis, Bellis poses with her partner Jim Huylebroek in Kabul, Afghanistan. Bellis, a pregnant New Zealand reporter who is expecting her first child with Huylebroek, has chosen Afghanistan as a temporary base for her uphill fight to return home because of her country's stringent COVID-19 entry rules. Huylebroek, a freelance photographer and Belgium native, has lived in Afghanistan for two years. Charlotte Bellis/AP Photo