By David Jolly
Kabul, Afghanistan – Hamstrung by student loans and dismayed at her meager prospects for repaying them, Kimberley Chongyon Motley left the long hours and low pay of the Milwaukee public defender’s office in 2008 for the long-shot promise of Afghanistan.
“I came here for the money, just like half the people here,” she says in “Motley’s Law,” a documentary about her unusual legal career that was broadcast on Al Jazeera America in February. Before arriving here, “I couldn’t find Afghanistan on the map.”
Ms. Motley, 40, a Marquette University Law School graduate, had never before traveled overseas when she enrolled in a Justice Department program to train Afghan lawyers and flew to one of the world’s more dangerous places.
In almost eight years practicing law here, Ms. Motley has been involved in some of the most important human rights cases of the post-Taliban era. She is perhaps the first independent lawyer to represent a victim of domestic violence in an Afghan court — a woman who had been forced into marriage by her family at the age of 12 and tortured by her husband. And Ms. Motley represented the family of Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old woman murdered last year after being falsely accused of having burned the Quran.
She has also helped foreigners who have run afoul of Afghan justice and, to pay the bills, she represents the local interests of Western embassies and big foreign companies, including on occasion The New York Times.
“I still make money, that’s a motivating factor. But I love representing those clients, people I would never have heard of if I hadn’t gone,” she said.
In a recent case, Ms. Motley was asked to help a teenage girl who was born in Afghanistan but raised in Vienna with Austrian citizenship. The young woman was tricked by her parents into returning to Afghanistan to marry a relative, Ms. Motley said.
Locked in a house in rural Baghlan Province with no family or friends to aid her, the girl surreptitiously contacted Ms. Motley (she would not reveal how) to ask for help.
Ms. Motley said she sent her “guys,” two groups of local men she trusts — “I know they’ve got my back,” she said — to rescue the girl from a region where the Taliban had recently captured the city of Kunduz. “Everyone up there has a gun, and people are very nervous.”
After two attempts, they sneaked the girl out and ferried her to Kabul. A month later, Ms. Motley accompanied her back to Vienna.
Read more: NY Times