A top female Afghan police officer on the run under Taliban rule has made a desperate video appeal for urgent help from the West to save her life.
Gulafroz Ebtekar, 32, was deputy head of criminal investigations in Kabul, and a prominent campaigner for women's rights under the overthrown government.
The police high-flyer and her family now face a 'death sentence' unless she can escape, says a friend and mentor.
Looking pale and shattered having already suffered a beating at the hands of Taliban thugs, Gulafroz spoke in English, saying: 'I was one of the very senior policewomen in Afghanistan.
'I did everything to encourage women into the police, against the wishes of the Taliban. Now my life is in danger. Real danger.
'Please help me and my family.'
Her cry from the heart comes after she received no offers of help to her plaintive last-minute appeals to US, British and other Western diplomats as the Taliban grabbed Kabul last month.
'I started emailing them on August 18, but have not received a single reply since then,' she said, despite British ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow and his team being aware of her plight.
Her final hope is that a major foreign country will grant her and her immediate family visas - and that the Taliban will in this situation honour its promise to let such people go.
Unless this happens soon, she fears she is certain to suffer a violent death.
Gulafroz had shown US soldiers proof of her identity and high position in the police, and she believed they initially tried to help her in the chaos before their departure, but she failed to get a flight out of the country.
She also appealed for help from Russia, but was told that Moscow is only extracting its own citizens from Afghanistan despite the fact Gulafroz had studied for a masters degree at a top police academy in Russia.
This is Gulafroz Ebtekar.— Julie Lenarz (@MsJulieLenarz) September 1, 2021
She was a top police officer in the Afghan Interior Ministry.
For that she was brutally beaten by the Taliban and is now fearing for her life.
“I sent messages to the embassies of many countries to save myself and my family, but all to no avail.” pic.twitter.com/iMkwdY1sqC
Dressed in Western-style clothes, Gulafroz recorded her video from her fourth hideaway since fleeing her own home after Taliban gunmen came looking for her.
She is even more terrified after hearing of the barbaric beating and shooting dead of 'my policewoman colleague' Banu Nagar, who was eight months pregnant, she said.
This officer was reportedly gunned down at the weekend after she removed a Taliban flag.
Gulafroz has already suffered one brutal beating since her world caved in when she was punched and kicked at Kabul airport as she desperately tried in vain to escape from her homeland.
A police colonel who knows her from her studies in Russia said Monday: 'She is a senior officer, which is now a direct threat to her life.
'It means a death sentence to her and her family after the recent change of political power.
'She is an incredibly strong personality, wise beyond her age, devoted to her country, very well-educated politically and down to earth and modest.
'She is a small person with a very big heart. I cannot grasp the full scale of the tragedy in her country.
'I once asked her I the final months of her studies - what does it mean to be a woman in a Muslim state run by Sharia law?
'She answered: 'It means that I can pay with my life for the choices I make'.
The colonel said: 'If it was in my power, I would have done everything I could to take Gulafroz to Russia.
'I have no right to speak on behalf of our state, but given what I know of her during the years of her studies, I would have done everything to help her get out.'
As a top Afghan Interior Ministry official, she was seen as a high-profile role model for Afghan women under the toppled pro-Western government, with a well-known face in the media and often cited by the foreign press.
Earlier she spoke of how she tried with thousands of others to flee from the airport.
'I spent five nights at the gates of Kabul airport without water or bread, in a rain of bullets and surrounded by the Taliban,' she said.
Gulafroz Ebtekar turned into the appointee head of criminal examinations in Afghanistan yet is currently on the pursued being severely beaten by the Taliban #GulafrozEbtekar https://t.co/78TXtQQGnI pic.twitter.com/gio6JU2Tjv— wikibioall (@wikibioall) September 1, 2021
'I witnessed the death of children and women.
'I sent messages to the embassies of many countries to save myself and my family, but all to no avail.'
'I had dreamed of changing the way people live in Afghanistan, first of all when it comes to women in the police. And I did it.
'When I returned to my homeland, I got a job in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and soon got a rather high position.
'I became Deputy Chief for Criminal Investigations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Afghanistan.'
But the Taliban surge destroyed her old life and her dreams outlined in public in March of a major boost to women in the police.
'The situation changed in one day,' she said. '[The Taliban] beat me with fists, boots, weapons and even stones.'
An outspoken advocate of women's rights, she continued campaigning earlier this year to double the number of women in the police despite specific warnings to her from the Taliban to stop.
She warned: 'I think the Taliban will never change.
'They will not agree for a woman to work, participate in public life, and be free.
'When the Taliban came to Kabul 20 years ago, they made the same promises as now for two months.
'And then they created their own state, their own courts, beat and killed people. For me, this is the most dangerous group of terrorists.
'Now my whole family is in great peril, every minute counts.'
She said: 'I was the first woman in Afghanistan to graduate from a police academy with a master's degree and hold such a high position…
'After me, about 4,000 Afghan women entered police universities.
'I'm not afraid to speak openly, because I have nothing left.
'The state of Afghanistan no longer exists, there is no freedom. All the time I fought to maintain a normal life in the country.
'If now there is no such life, why should I be afraid?'
Gulafroz' heartfelt plea for help comes just days after Taliban militants reportedly shot and killed a pregnant policewoman in front of her husband and children in a door-to-door execution, witnesses have said.
Banu Negar was killed on Saturday at her home in Firozkoh, the capital of central Ghor province, amid increasing violence in Afghanistan under the new regime.
The mother, who worked in the local prison, was eight months pregnant at the time of the execution.
The terror group told the BBC they had no involvement in her death and are investigating it.
Spokesman Zabiullah Mujaheed said: 'We are aware of the incident and I am confirming that the Taliban have not killed her, our investigation is ongoing.'
He added the Taliban has announced an amnesty for people who worked for the former administration.
Mujaheed said her death was caused by 'personal enmity or something else', despite reports that three gunmen arrived at her house and searched it before tying members of the family up and carrying out the killing.
The Taliban have been trying to project a more tolerant and moderate image of themselves since seizing power, yet numerous reports have stated that Taliban fighters are going door to door hunting former members of the Afghan security forces and Western allies.
On Sunday, the Taliban attacked Afghan women protesters demanding equal rights as they fired shots into the air and 'let off tear gas' during a peaceful march.
The women's march - the second in as many days in the capital - began with demonstrators laying a wreath outside Afghanistan's defence ministry to honour soldiers who have died fighting the extremist group, before moving on to the presidential palace.
But the peaceful protest descended into chaos and turned violent as Taliban special forces armed with assault rifles waded into the crowd, firing shots into the air and sending demonstrators fleeing.
Witnesses said Taliban forces also used tear gas to stop the protest, with women seen coughing and clutching their throats in videos shared widely across social media.
One prominent protester, 20-year-old Maryam Naiby, said of the campaign in the wake of the Taliban seizing power: 'We are here to gain human rights in Afghanistan. I love my country. I will always be here.'
When the Taliban first gained hold of the country some two decades ago, women and girls were mostly denied education and employment.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.