Self-exiled Afghan journalists left in lurch in Pakistan

Organisations, who helped journalists to leave Kabul with promises to settle them in West, now show reluctance

Anadolu Agency May 23, 2022


At least 40 Afghan journalists, including eight women, who were evacuated from Kabul after it was taken over by the Taliban last year in August are awaiting help from international organisations to settle them in different countries.

Living in hostels and rented houses in Islamabad, many of them told Anadolu Agency that they are running out of their savings, time, and options. They were promised to be taken to some European countries but have been now left unattended in Pakistan.

"Some of us got help from an American NGO, Too Young to Wed, and even after coming to Pakistan, we had a meeting with their local representative and explained to him that we cannot survive here for a long time as we do not have any source of income here, but still we are on a waiting list," said Shabnum Popalzai, an Afghan lady journalist.

Read more: Where is Afghanistan headed?

Another journalist Azita Nizami said that Afghan journalists, who have escaped from Kabul cannot go back.

“That is not even an option for us. We don't know about the future of our children. I have girls who have looked up to me as an inspiration,” she said.

Nizami claimed that she had received a direct threat from Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid last year in October, while she was interviewing him for local radio.

"He was annoyed with my presence on the set. Before I could start the interview, he told me that he knows about my participation in the demonstration related to freedom of expression and he told me that 'I should not have done that,'” she said.

Hades Pardes, a journalist who has also arrived from Kabul, is trying to network these self-exiled journalists to reach out to international organisations for help.

Also read: Taliban detain dozens trying to ‘illegally’ leave Afghanistan by air

"We have all faced these problems. The main issue is we cannot apply for citizenship status in Pakistan also, as we cannot work as journalists here. We were scattered. Many people have moved out of Afghanistan and settled in the West by claiming they were journalists. That's why we all came together and created this platform," said Pardes.

Najibullah Faizi, a senior journalist, said that they were forced to leave Kabul after receiving repeated threats.

Wait is getting longer

All of these journalists moved to Islamabad in March after waiting in Kabul for six months. They say that their wait is getting longer as the organisations now look reluctant to talk about their issue.

Popalzai said since they cannot practice their profession while waiting in Pakistan, the government agencies keep an eye on them.

A lady journalist told Anadolu Agency that she kept her identity as a journalist secret and has chosen a different name on her passport.

"I have a different name on my passport. That's why I was able to cross the border and enter Pakistan," she told Anadolu Agency.

Behishte Shaheed, who was working with Kabul-based Noor TV, said she had escaped from Afghanistan after receiving threats on Facebook Messenger.

"I had to leave my country for the sake of my family. My landlord asked me to vacate the place and I could not live in Kabul anymore. Here in Pakistan, we are safe. But cannot live for a long time here. We don't even know the local language and can speak only in Dari or English," she said.



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