A letter to my husband in Taliban prison

A letter to my husband in Taliban prison
Days after arriving in his home country of Afghanistan, journalist Mortaza Behboudi was arrested. His crime was nothing more than lending a voice to those that the Taliban has tried to silence, writes his wife Aleksandra Mostovaja.
5 min read
27 Mar, 2023
Mortaza Behboudi was arrested by the Taliban on the 7th of January and has been imprisoned in Afghanistan ever since. [Aleksandra Mostovaja]

My dear husband, you have been gone since the 7th of January. I miss your kind smile, your warm voice and your passionate energy that never failed to amaze me.

I never thought I would be saying these words that I must also now share with the world: my Franco-Afghan husband Mortaza Behboudi has been imprisoned by the Taliban in Afghanistan because of his journalism that dared to give voice to the silenced.

Each day I plead with others to share your story, to share #freemortaza on social media, so that your voice will be manifested in thousands of others. And yet those times come when I cannot help but to think of how it all started.

"You told me that if not for the danger to your life, you would never have left Afghanistan, your home, friends, and family"

Just days before your arrest, I had seen you at your home in Paris. We said our goodbyes, the words that I find the hardest to say, as I feel the tears bottling up. I knew you were going to Kabul again for work. You had seemed as confident as always and assured me nothing would happen; that you would be careful.

I had never wanted you to go to work in Afghanistan, but you had said that you could not live your life without helping others, giving voice to the people who had their voices taken away from them. Since you were 16 years old, you have been passionate about journalism. You are the bravest person I know, as you always sought difficult subjects.

In the end, your work made you flee Afghanistan. You told me that if not for the danger to your life, you would never have left Afghanistan, your home, friends, and family. You worked hard to build your career after having to work in a factory as a child to support your family. Nevertheless, there was nothing you could have done, as you prepared to leave it all behind.

As a 21-year-old, you found yourself on the streets of Paris, completely alone and with no understanding of the language. The first several months you were homeless.

I never got to hear about this part of your life, you always seemed to struggle to find the words. I could only see by the way you eluded my gaze and fumbled with your hands that it was very difficult, and most of all so lonely.

Luckily, you were found by a kind person, and now a friend, who was volunteering at Les Restos de Coeur, a charity that serves free food in France. She had told you to go to The House of Journalists, where you were able to receive housing. Soon after, you started your master’s degree in International Relations at Sorbonne University and quickly learned the French language.

Your strength, bravery, and pure resilience have never failed to impress me. It has always seemed like despite the many difficulties you had faced, you would never refuse to help others, smile and spread happiness.

Light would radiate from you, and I would sometimes feel like Icarus, flying in pure bliss among the clouds. Each moment with you was so beautiful; I never would have thought that there would come a time when thinking about you could make me hurt so much.

We met in Copenhagen by pure chance. As you explored the city, you stumbled upon a Velo Café, where I was working part-time. You told me of your work, and how you just came back from making a documentary called “Moria, a Living Hell”.

Mortaza Behboudi and Aleksandra Mostavaja at their wedding in Afghanistan. [Aleksandra Mostavaja]
Mortaza Behboudi and Aleksandra Mostovaja at their wedding in Afghanistan. [Aleksandra Mostovaja]

You were the only journalist who was reporting on the conditions at the biggest refugee camp at that time in Europe, which was situated in Lesvos, Greece. You had stayed undercover for several months living at Moria and had told me of the grave conditions there.

I was taken aback by your resolve and passion; it is not often one meets people who have such a clear goal and confidence, who do not look back, and who have no fear at all. I later understood that at this first meeting, I saw you so distinctly, because you are always so transparent, as your intentions are pure and you have no reason to hide them.

You told me many more things, and I ended up showing you Copenhagen. We had fallen in love in my city, and soon you were asking me to accompany you for your work in France, Greece, and then Afghanistan, although you had told me not to go for my own safety.

My will is strong too, and I stood by my wish to see your country and learn of your culture. Our wedding was amongst your family in Kabul, and I could not have asked for a more wonderful celebration of our love.

Now Kabul rings a different melody, it stings me with its unyielding chorus. I am truly fighting for your freedom each second of the day. You are all I think of, and it is like time has stopped; my life has been set on pause. I live in another world, where everything is a matter of life and death and I shoulder the responsibility for someone’s freedom.

I know this letter cannot be given to you, but I hope that it will reach the ears of Kabul - that the message will survive the long journey. You must be set free; journalism is not a crime.

Aleksandra Mostovaja is an architecture student from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. She is the co-founder and president of The Royal Academy's Consortium for Human Rights, the first student organisation that promotes human rights in architecture.She is also a student writer for the Danish magazine, Arkitekten. She has been fighting for the release of her husband, Mortaza Behboudi, who is imprisoned by the Taliban in Kabul for his journalistic work.

Follow her on Twitter: @mostik07

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