Friday, September 24

Shakila Ibrahimjil, Afghan journalist: “On television in Afghanistan, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, no one will be able to report freely”


At 24, Shakila Ibrahimjil already enjoyed working as a journalist in Kabul, covering any news event related to the rights of women in Afghanistan and their progressive incorporation into the University, Parliament, the armed forces and other spheres of society.

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It was the year 2007. It had been a little over five years since international forces had taken control of Afghanistan and ended the five-year period (1996-2001) of terror imposed by the Taliban in the capital (before they had already sown it in other areas of the country Central Asian). At that time, the millions from the United States and Europe rained down to finance international cooperation projects for development, peace or governance, although part of the multimillion-dollar sums ended up over the years. in the pockets of corrupt Afghan politicians or international contractors.

The young Shakila was passionate about what she did, until from 2014 the attacks by the Taliban began to intensify. Then the Government of Barack Obama announced its intention to materialize the progressive withdrawal of its troops in the country, and NATO formally ended its combat mission in December of that year.

With the new wave of violence (in 2015 there were more than a hundred incidents a week) the reporter was forced to specialize in her coverage and in that of the victims they left behind. The private television station in which he worked, Tolo News, which the Taliban came to define as “satanic”, also received threats up to four times and in January 2016 it became a military target. Seven of Shakila’s companions died in a suicide attack on the minibus in which they traveled back to their homes after working hours. Several dozen other people were injured.

Three months later, in April, a new Taliban attack in Kabul left 60 more dead and hundreds injured. In a matter of hours Shakila Ibrahimjil, who had already lost her husband in an attack by religious extremists, made the most difficult decision of her life: she would leave Afghanistan and do it with her three children.

Today the journalist talks to elDiario.es from Bonn, where she works for the radio and online service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Do you have news of the situation from your fellow journalists?

Of course. Your situation is very complicated. All aspire to leave if they find a way to do so, and those who do not have no choice but to apply self-censorship and modulate their speech to suit what the Taliban want to hear. It’s a mere question of survival …

Most of the international media have already left or are about to do so. They assure that they will work with informants or local contacts. What do you think?

I understand that the international media are afraid of what may happen to their journalists, but those who decide to stay, if there are any, will work with much greater protection than the local ones, who will be controlled and threatened.

Do you think there will be an information blackout when current events displace what is happening in your country?

Without a doubt there will be a void and I believe that covering it is the responsibility of Afghan journalists who live in exiles in Western countries. We must work together so that the voice of our people continues to be heard.

Taliban spokesmen assure that they will maintain freedom of information. Do you believe them?

Absolutely. They lie. The Taliban have no intention of tolerating freedom of expression. If they say they are going to do it, it is not because they have the will to do it, but because they want to appear moderate in front of the international community. Reality is something else.

Some of his fellow television journalists have already denounced having been replaced in their jobs by men …

Actually, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman in Afghanistan right now. Men will have more freedom in terms of movement, but then they will have to apply self-censorship, since they will not be able to report freely.

And what will happen to those who have been critical of the Taliban?

There will be reckoning. Those who have been especially combative during these 20 years will be retaliated and will reward those who have not censored them. They will try to tame the media through fear.

You were able to study at the University, do you think girls who grow up in Afghanistan in 2021 will have that opportunity?

When I was of university age I was lucky that women could study. Also, my father and one of my brothers supported me financially. I am afraid that under the new regime neither one nor the other will be possible. On the other hand, they preach gender segregation, so they would have to set up two campuses, one for men and one for women. Do you think they will?

How has this situation been reached?

From 2001 to 2014, a development took place in all areas that was very positive for the country. However, in 2014 there was a turning point when the US hinted that it was going to withdraw from Afghanistan. Then the Taliban began to regroup, to reorganize, recovering positions, not in Kabul, but in the provinces. They began their particular reconquest, undermining freedoms and respect for Human Rights. What happened after that we already know.

International organizations and foreign governments were well aware of the corruption existing in the institutions that they themselves supported …

There was undoubtedly corruption and mismanagement on the part of the political system that has just collapsed, but also on the part of the external powers (US, EU) that financed the institutional development of Afghanistan. The soldiers of the National Army and the agents of the National Police, who had been trained and armed by the West, were undervalued and underpaid, which has helped their collapse like a house of cards.

With the United States and Europe out, what role do you think China or Russia will play? Beijing is already negotiating what will be the framework of its relationship with the Taliban …

Neither the US nor the EU came to help the Afghans, but to pursue their own goals, eradicate Al Qaeda and fight the Taliban. The same is true of Russia and China, who also instrumentalize Afghanistan. But not only the West. Also Pakistan and Iran do. They all defend their national interest. Kipling’s “Great Game” is still going on …

Do you think that one day you will be able to return to your country?

Two weeks ago I was considering applying for a permit to travel to do a series of reports and thus take the opportunity to see my family, but when I saw the collapse in front of the Taliban I discarded it. I haven’t seen my parents, brothers and nephews for six years, but nowadays with new technologies (Zoom, Skype, etc.) it becomes a little more bearable. Even so, I am afraid that something could happen to them and I wish they could leave Kabul and come to Europe. No one in their right mind would want to raise their children in Afghanistan today.



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