Afghanistan: "I don't know what awaits me in the future"

Farida Nekzad is the managing editor of Pajhwok Afghan News, Afghanistan’s largest independent news agency, a 2008 winner of the prestigious International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award and the director of the Centre for Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ). Often risking her life to defend media freedom and the place of women journalists, Nekzad had to flee Afghanistan on 24 August with her family. From Qatar, where she has taken refuge, she tells the IFJ about her evacuation journey, her fears and hope for the future.

Credits: Farida Nekzad's Twitter account

When I fled Kabul I was among at least 15 other media workers in the plane. There were well-known journalists from Zen TV, Ariana News, Khalid, Tolo News and some other workers from provincial media. Some were senior journalists and experienced journalists who had worked for a long time in Afghanistan, but unfortunately had no other choice but to leave.

The situation was really horrible. One big issue was that even though most journalists had received an evacuation letter, nothing was clear about the evacuation process: there was no clear system of transportation, no location, no focal point where we had to meet to reach the airport. 

I was fortunate enough to have a car arranged by the Committee to Protect Journalists to go from the Serena Hotel in Kabul to the airport. There was a list with names on it of people who could shift from the hotel. Once we arrived at the airport, they double checked the names on the list before letting us in.

Everyone on the plane was crying, including me

Once at the airport, it was crowded everywhere. On one side there were civilians with documents and passports trying to rush to enter the airport and on the other side there were Taliban members shooting, sometimes in the air but sometimes also face to face. A number of people got injured.

After waiting for 8-9 hours, we finally got a chance to get on the plane. Everyone on the plane was crying, including me. I cried from the moment I was in the hotel until I entered Qatar’s airport. It is not something easy, to leave your homeland. We fought for 20 years for democracy, press freedom, free media and the presence of women journalists. All this progress and sacrifice was taken away in a minute and we’re now 20 years back to the ignorance and dark period of the Taliban.

I don't know what awaits me in the future. On the plane, three women from Ariana News were sad and really confused too about what we should do in the future: live in Qatar or a third country? Make a career again? Is it a waste of time? We hope that the international community will pay attention to these young people, as well as to the Afghan seniors and experts, and will help them resume their activity.

The IFJ has established a special Afghanistan Solidarity Fund within the IFJ Safety Fund to channel further support and urge those who can donate. All funds raised will go directly to providing support to Afghan colleagues.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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