Afghan females and a career in journalism

Women make up 1,500 of the Afghanistan’s 10,000 journalists. Threatened by the Taliban, risk of death, yet still they choose to work towards a career in journalism.

It is now clear to the world that life for women in Afghanistan was never easy, and the question that remains is, if it will ever be easy?

We can, without a doubt, say that females in Afghanistan dream of a career because after all, the women there are like any other woman in the world, with a dream. Afghanistan has seen a great interest of women working towards rebuilding the country.

There are now women politicians, drivers, teachers, doctors, singers, celebrities and businesswomen in Afghanistan. A huge improvement compared to the previous, dark, years of war.

Afghan Women are eager to take part in making Afghanistan a better place purely because of their passion and dreams to live a better life, and make the future brighter for their children and the future generations to come.

From my visits to Afghanistan, I have seen girls and boys going to school with a great interest in education. I recall waking up one morning and looking out of the window in my room, seeing children dressed in uniform heading towards school, Girls wearing white scarves and black dresses and the boys wearing blazers, shirts and trousers with polished shoes, cheerfully heading to school.

However, with the withdrawal of the troops and reduced aid to Afghanistan there is a very high risk of these gains and the achievements of Afghan women and men, which are already very fragile, to be reversed back as no one knows what the future holds for Afghanistan.

Fatimah, a young Afghan girl, aged 21, whom I met in Afghanistan, Jalalabad province, said that the Taliban are not the only reason that stops men and women from pursuing a career in journalism, but it is the lack of security in the country, and the unorganised policies in the countries laws.

She said, “I want a career in journalism, but the lack of security and the lack of protection for journalists in Afghanistan stops me. My family, especially my father is against my decision, he is not permitting me to work towards the career in journalism because he fears losing me.”

Palwasha Tokhi

On September 16th, young female journalist, known as Palwasha Tokhi, who worked for Bayan, a local radio in northern Balkh province, was killed inside her home.

Palwasha Tokhi studied and completed her Masters degree in Thailand, two months before she was killed.

She was taken to the Mazar-e-Sharif hospital after being stabbed by unknown men. Mohammad Khalil Tokhi, her father, said the men broke into their home when he was not there, stabbed Palwasha and then fled. Tokhi was the second radio journalist killed in Mazar-e-Sharif.

There were claims that Palwasha had been killed because she worked for the German military and it was thought she had links with them.

Tokhi’s former colleague said, “The insurgents tell people that those who work for the West are promoting Christianity in Afghanistan and are against Islam.”

Her murder is still a mystery and no one has found her killers. This raises the question, if the Afghan police/government are trying hard enough to bring those who commit crimes, such as killings of journalist, to justice.


Afghan female MP attacked in Kabul

A woman’s rights MP, Shukria Barekzai, attacked, survives bomb explosion that left three martyred.

Image taken from
Image taken from

On Sunday, 16th November, a bomb explosion in the capital city of Afghanistan, Kabul, took place aiming to kill a well-known female politician.

Shukria Barekzai was traveling in a convoy, which was struck by another vehicle causing a big explosion. Three people were left martyred one was a young girl. Seventeen people were left injured. Barekzai was urgently taken to hospital and only suffered minor injuries.

“Minister of interior met MP Barekzai she is fine and suffers small injuries. Reports of her family killed in this attack are not true.”

According to Al-Jazeera, Shinkay Karokhil, another female MP, told the AFP news agency: “The target was a convoy of MPs who were driving toward the parliament. Shukria Barekzai was affected by the attack but she is fine.”

BBC Image of the attack on Sunday

Rumors were spread that Barekzai’s family were also injured but a spokesperson for the Afghan ministry of interior affairs took to twitter to confirm that she was fine and none of her family members were harmed. He tweeted, “Minister of interior met MP Barekzai she is fine and suffers small injuries. Reports of her family killed in this attack are not true.”

The 42-year-old female politician has said she received many threats. Shukria Barekzai is known across Afghanistan for her work toward women’s rights and works closely with Ashraf Ghani.

During the Taliban years, Shukria Barekzai confessed to Reuters in one of her interviews in 2005 that she had run a secret school for girls during the Taliban’s rule. The Taliban forced tough restrictions on women for five years.

Reuters called Shukria Barekzai after the attacks, when she was in hospital, she told them, “I survived because of my people’s prayers.”

La Galleria – Afghanistan- Before the Dawn

This video is from YouTube

On the 10th of November 2014, I attended an Afghanaids charity event, which took place at Pall Mall, La Galleria.

Welcomed by the loving staff, I was asked for my coat politely and offered a glass of fine wine, Champaign or a soft drink, with smiling faces. As soon as I walked in I felt as though Afghanistan had come to the city of London.

There were many different people, from different backgrounds, roaming around the room and looking at the beautifully painted pieces. Some of the guests were admiring the paintings while others were discussing them. I was caught by surprise, as I did not expect to see so many people at one event in attendance to see and hear about the Afghan culture.

The sound of the Afghan Rabab (famous Afghan instrument) played in the background; live by an Afghan artist on stage, placed in the corner of the Gallery, while guests had a chitchat with their glass of wine in their hands. The women were dressed elegantly and the men were all wearing suits and ties, it felt like a very important and posh event, almost like a business meeting.

I was originally there for the talk, which was going to take place by the famous foreign correspondent, Christina Lamb. She spoke about her experiences during her trips to Afghanistan. A very touching speech, which reminded me of the time I was in Afghanistan. I was proud of her interest in Afghanistan. Not only hers but everyone else who had attended.

Arabella Dorman is the artist behind the amazing paintings hung on the walls of La Galleria. She is a war artist who has visited Afghanistan on numerous occasions over the past five years. She visited the country to capture accurate human faces of the conflict there in her paintings; her aim was to show both the life of Afghan civilians and of the British forces. The exhibition is titled as ‘Before the Dawn’, which refers to the new start, change and insecurity because the Afghan army has been left to fight on their own; it also highlights the fears of each day.

The event was sponsored by Mirwais Alizai, a 32-year-old Afghan entrepreneur who spoke in the event and said that he sponsored this event for the love he has for Afghanistan, and also to raise as much awareness as possible.

Here are some images I took at the event:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Is Afghanistan a safe place for journalist?

According to recent reports journalists are NOT safe in Afghanistan.

Afghan journalists live only to work for a brighter future for Afghanistan but also are in fear of their life due to the countries violent past.

Afghanistan is a country where its laws are hazy, with no energy or strength to keep its people protected. Reporting the truth is often met with the death or a violent attack on a journalist.

Most journalists who visit Afghanistan, work under very tough conditions and usually face violence, intimidations, and threats that stops them from carrying out their work.

Since the year 2001 to 2014, 477 men and 38 female journalists have been attacked either threatened, beaten, arrested, killed, kidnapped or injured in Afghanistan, according to Open Media.

The highest numbers of people were attacked in the Kabul Province. The uppermost attacks were in the year 2011, with 72 journalists involved. The top five organisations experiencing violence are Tolo TV, Aryana TV, Pajhwok, RTA and Al- Jazeera.


Sardar Ahmad, an Afghan AFP journalist was killed in Kabul when he was having a meal with his family at a five star hotel. Ahmad, 40, was shot dead along with his wife and two of his three children when four teenage gunmen attacked the hotel on a Thursday evening. The Taliban were responsible for the attacks.

The incident became a huge subject in Afghanistan, leading to the governments promise to bring his killers to justice.

His last tweet was a picture of dried fruits representing the celebration of the Persian New Year that he did not live to see.

Shortly after the incident of Sardar Ahmad, a gunman who was dressed as a police officer attacked two foreign journalists. Anja Niedringhaus and Kathy Gannon were traveling in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the center of Khost city to the outskirts, in Tani district. The Afghan National Army and Afghan police were escorting the convoy, and the journalists were in their own car with a freelancer and a driver.

When they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, and yelled “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) and opened fire on both the women with an AK-47, after which he surrendered to the police and was arrested.

Image from the BBC (Right Anja and Left Kathy)

Anja Niedringhaus, a German War photographer, was killed and Kathy Gannon, a Canadian journalist was seriously injured according to the Huffington post.

All three incidents happened this year, the year in which Afghanistan should have been a safer place for journalists to be reporting from. These incidents are an example of how easy it is for journalists to be targeted in Afghanistan, despite its high volume of security.

This leaves us with the question of if Afghanistan is actually safe for journalists? Despite the help of the foreign troops, can we really guarantee safety to journalists within, and outside Afghanistan who intend to report from the country?


Child Brides

Child brides, an illegal act in the West, are very common in countries like Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Pakistan, Malawi, South Sudan, Kurdistan and many more.

Naghma, front right, 6, who will be married to a lender's 17-year-old son to pay her family's debt if her father cannot repay it.

In Afghanistan 57% of girls are married or promised to men twice their age. According to UNICEF more girls are forced into marriage than boys. The main cause of this is the cultural, political and economic opinions of the child’s family.

If the family comes from an educated background, rich and modern then it is less likely for them to get their children married at a young age, whereas the less educated, poor and lower class are more likely to get their daughters married for either in exchange for money to cover debts or to take away the burden of providing for them.

Becoming a child bride takes away freedom and education from young girls; this prevents the girls from developing skills to independently look after themselves. It is also physically very dangerous for the health of the child, as they are not developed enough or ready to give birth at a young age as it could result in emotional, mental and physical trauma to both the girl and her newborn child.

In cities like Herat, Kabul, Kapisa Province and Mazar-i-Sharif, shelter is provided to Afghan women forced into marriages. The help comes from groups such as ‘Voice of Women Organisation’ and ‘Women for Afghan Women’ including other groups that have emerged since, the fall of the Taliban.

The case of 6-year-old Naghma

There have been countless reports on young Afghan brides. The most recent one was of a six year old girl married to cover her father’s debts. Naghma’s father had no other way to pay back his debts but to sell his daughter.

Naghma’s family fled Helmand Province during the War in Afghanistan. Taj Mohammad, Naghmas father, took nine of his children and wife to stay at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, in pursue of a better life. They faced many difficulties. The family suffered in the winter, which lead to the death of Naghmas three-year-old brother who froze to death and her mother fell ill.

Taj Mohammad borrowed $2,500 in order to pay for his wife’s medical bills and other family costs. He could not repay the debt, so he was left with no choice but to Marry off Naghma to the lenders 19-year-old son.

“It was a difficult decision. Everyone gives away their child but to give Naghma away like that was just so hard.” Said Taj Mohammad (CNN).

Human rights groups then found out about Naghma’s story and were outraged so they contacted a U.S lawyer, Kimberley Motley, a former beauty queen who had been working in Afghanistan for five years.

Kimberley Motley contacted people who could help, and arranged a ‘Jirga’, which is a gathering, attended by Afghan elders. Kimberley was successful at saving Naghma as a decision was made to get her out of the marriage.

Taj Mohammad was very sad to come to a decision of getting his child married. According to CNN he said, “When I couldn’t pay my debt I felt like I’d been thrown into the fire and then someone rescued me.”

Naghma is now 7 and at school. Kimberly said, “I’m certainly very happy that Naghma did not have to be married off at the age of 6, so I’m pleased with that, But I’d like to make sure she gets an education and becomes successful.” (CNN)