Female journalists in Afghanistan fear Taliban reprisal, yet vow to keep working

Female journalists in Afghanistan fear Taliban reprisal, yet vow to keep working
Female journalists in Afghanistan fear reprisals for both their gender and their reporting as Taliban militants take over Kabul.
3 min read
17 August, 2021
Female journalists in Afghanistan fear reprisals under Taliban rule [Getty]

Women journalists in Afghanistan braced for a resurgent Taliban rule as militants entered Kabul on Sunday, raising fears of a roll-back of women's rights in the war-torn country.

The Taliban, a hardline Islamist group, has ripped through Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, capturing all of its major cities before setting its sights on the capital Kabul. The capital fell on Sunday and the speed of the insurgents' rout has shocked the world.

For Afghan journalist Asal, the unrest was nothing new.

"I have never seen my country at peace," Asal, whose name has been changed due to safety concerns, told The New Arab.

Even so, the return to Taliban rule is particularly crushing for the nation's educated and outspoken women, who have worked relentlessly to carve out a role for themselves in Afghan society and could now be stripped of their rights.

A prominent journalist who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity said she was watching her life's efforts crumble in what felt like seconds.

"For many years, I worked as a journalist… to raise the voice of Afghans, especially Afghan women, but now our identity is being destroyed and nothing has been done by us to deserve this," she said on Monday.

"In the last 24 hours, our lives have changed and we have been confined to our homes, and death threatens us at every moment."

Afghan female journalists spoke of a once free and bustling Kabul now filled with silence and fear as they attempt to avoid Taliban militants.

Like Asal, those who spoke to The Guardian feared their reporting will put them in jeopardy under the new rule.

Afghanistan's female reporters receive constant death threats from the Taliban as well as other groups who share the view that women should not be treated as equals.

During the Taliban regime in the late 1990s, the failure to wear the iconic blue burqa would result in severe corporal punishments and public lashings from the Taliban’s "morality police".

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen hinted on Monday at the return of amputations, executions, and stoning "if and when Islamic law permits".

Since then a Taliban official said women have nothing to fear from the movement and encouraged them to take part in government.

Despite the risks, Asal vowed to keep reporting despite the obstacles, which now include Taliban militants roaming the streets of the capital.

"The Taliban has taken over the country and our government has fallen to this terrorist group," Asal said. "I'm a woman and I must keep working [to defend] my rights.

"It's my responsibility,” she said.