Rising fear as Afghan women journalists targeted by Taliban
Nadia Momand, a 20-year-old journalist, is living a nightmare, fearing for her life after four female colleagues were shot dead in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
“I love journalism, but also I love to live,” she said.
Momand is a newsreader and journalist on Enikass TV, a local broadcast news station in Jalalabad, a city in Nangarhar province.
“While we were leaving from the office to go home, three people followed us that week,” she said. “I can’t keep up with my (normal) activities. I can’t go out without the fear of being killed, and they will not let me live. They will definitely kill me as well.”
Malala Maiwand, a fellow journalist at Enikass TV, was murdered in December 2020. The same newsroom mourned again when three female employees Mursal Waheedi, Saadia Sadat and Shahnaz Raufi were gunned down while on their way home from work on March 3.
“The pain and the sorrow of that incident is still fresh, and the death of my 4 friends and colleagues is unbearable,” Momand said.
Momand told Humber News that before the death of her friends, three unknown gunmen followed them for a week when they left work.
“It was my lucky day,” she said. “Something saved me.”
The looming danger against female media workers forced them to go to local law enforcement to protect their safety. But, when they were released from protective custody, they were targeted.
“The police told us (we) could go back to work,” Momand said, adding that police told them they were safe.
“After a month, my friends killed in the street, and all ladies were targeted,” she said.
Momand said she lives in fear and faces serious security problems where she demanded protection from the police for a second time.
“They told me (they) could not do anything for you. Just do not go to work,” she said. “I am like in jail now because I can not go outside.”
Bakhtiar Yasini, a presenter at Enikass TV, told Humber news, the TV station decided not to hire any additional women employees.
“They warned us,” he said. “They said, ‘It is now your turn‘ on social media.”
Yasini said the TV station demanded protection from the government, but were told to save themselves.
“The government said save (our lives) from Taliban or ISIS,“ he said. “How can we do that? We only have a pen.“
The killings have spread fear among Afghanistan’s journalist community. The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said nearly 20 per cent of Afghan women journalists have quit or lost their jobs in the past six months.
Farida Nekzad, director for The Protection of Afghan Women Journalists and the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, said women are being targeted by different groups of the Taliban and ISIS.
“The reason why they want to attack women, [is that] they don’t want the women to have a presence or work or be active,” she said.
Nekzad said Afghanistan doesn’t have a specific policy to protect women against violence.
“We lost 10 women, the vaccinators and woman journalists and, unfortunately, we didn’t see any progress or investigations by the government, ” she said.
Nekzad warned of the dangers the Taliban poses to women.
“We saw 100 killing decisions by the Taliban last week,” she said. “They beat a woman, according to Sharia, in front of a number of women,” she said.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced he will withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan on April 13.
Nekzad said the decision bothers Afghan women and is a big risk to women.
“We are all concerned regarding this situation,” she said. “They are going and withdrawing the troops responsible that came to fight against terrorists and finish the terrorists.”