Afghan journalists facing an impossible choice under the Taliban

For five days after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban insurgency, Mariam (not her real name) didn’t leave her house. As a professional athlete, this was very unusual. However, 23-year-old Mariam is also one of the city’s up and coming journalists and staying at home did not feel right. 

The militant group, known for their regressive ideology and restricting women’s rights and freedoms, had forced many Afghan women to retreat in to the shelter of their homes in the days following the siege. But Mariam had enough. “I wanted to get back to work. I wanted to get out,” she said.

So on Friday, an otherwise normal day off in Kabul, Mariam decided to go to her workplace, a newsroom in the centre of the city. “Around 11.45 am, as I was getting into the car, I got a call from an unknown number. I answered it and the man on the other line, asked, ‘Are you Mariam?’ and I froze in my tracks.” 

“He sounded friendly, as though we might have been old friends,” she said.

But something about his voice made her very uncomfortable. Still, she replied, “Yes I am.” He then asked her, “Do you know me?” and she replied, “I don’t and I don’t have your number saved either. Who is this?”

Without answering her question, the man continued, this time in a much less friendly tone. “He identified the location of my office and asked if I worked there. I was so scared, I didn’t reply. He then said, ‘We [the Taliban] are coming for you’ and I immediately hung up and put my phone on airplane mode.”

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