Friday, September 24

The Afghan journalist who fled her country after interviewing a Taliban leader



On August 17, the presenter of the Afghan television channel TOLO News, Beheshta Arghand, was ready to begin the broadcast of the news when suddenly one of the leaders of the Taliban appeared in the studio, uninvited, asking to be interviewed. The 24-year-old journalist would unknowingly become the first woman to interview an insurgent from the Islamist group, a fact that was considered a milestone for women.

In the presence of Taliban spokesman Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad on set, the journalist adjusted the veil she was wearing tightly to make it look more like the traditional hijab worn by women in Afghanistan. He looked at his body to make sure no other parts of his body were exposed and began to ask the man his questions. His live interview was news worldwide by becoming the first person to question a member of the Islamist group, just two days after the Taliban seized Kabul, after more than 20 years of American occupation in the country.

But the feat he accomplished that day forced her to flee with her family from the country for fear that the new Taliban government would retaliate. Beheshta Arghand left Afghanistan on August 24, on a Qatar Air Force flight with the help of Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. From Doha he confirms to Reuters that he is living in the Qatari capital and recalls the tension he experienced that day in the recording studio: “Fortunately I always wear long clothes in the studio because we work with different people with different mentalities.” And he assured that the Taliban do not accept women. «When a group of people does not accept you as a human being, they have their own image of you. This is very difficult to live, “he said.

“I have left the country because, like millions of people, I am afraid of the Taliban,” he told CNN via WhatsApp.

The interview is part of a media campaign by the Taliban that aims to show a more restrained face to the West, as they promised to respect women’s rights and include other Afghan factions in a power-sharing agreement.

The journalist commented that the Taliban ordered the TOLO News channel to report that all women they had to wear hijab, covering the head well, but leaving the face uncovered. After what happened, they suspended the work of the presenters in other television stations.

Many of her colleagues had already left the country by then, despite assurances from the Taliban that media freedom was improving every day and that women would have access to education and work.

Afghan journalists have appealed to the United Nations for protection from “the growing challenges and threats” they face after the Taliban seize power, which has already precipitated the flight from the country of several journalists, including Afghan presenter Beheshta Arghand . In a letter signed by 150 journalists, photographers and other communication professionals, they have addressed “the United Nations and the donor countries” to urge them to take measures to save both their lives and those of their families.

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