Interviewer: Fatima Roshanian
In an interview with Nimrokh, Soraya Amiri, the coordinator, and producer of political programs for Tolo News narrates how the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, their interference in the work of the Afghan media and broadcasting. “On the first day of their rule in Kabul, the Taliban interfered in the political programs of the private media and instructed media executives on how to coordinate and publish their programs in favor of the Taliban,” she said.
On the evening of the first day of the Taliban rule, during the coordination of the guests of my program with my colleagues, I noticed a message from a Taliban member on WhatsApp: “Invite me to your program tonight to clarify the new situation for people”. He also suggested two other Taliban members as guests for tomorrow night and two nights later.
We do not expect the Taliban to hear these voices; But what is shameful is the world silence towards the protests of Afghan women, why Afghan women have been deprived of their freedoms and achievements and ruled by a cruel and illiterate terrorist group.
Soraya says surprisingly that the Taliban arranged guests for my program to invite even for three days.
Soraya Amiri and some other media workers have left Afghanistan for the safety of their lives due to the broadcasting of the most serious reports and information about Taliban crimes.
Soraya Amiri lived a relatively quiet and prosperous life before the Taliban, a culture_loved family, a job on a reputable news network, and hope for a bright future, but what always worried her and her family was Soraya’s safety. Because there were targeted killings, armed robberies, attacks on infant hospitals, and explosions in mosques and public places in her neighborhood.
Soraya Amiri was a female journalist and media worker in Afghanistan who spent more than nine years in the media and media work environment. Her first media experience was with the local radio station (Bamyan Radio) as a presenter and reporter, and then with the local newsgroup(Kilid) she reported on the situation of women and children in Daikundi and Bamyan until she entered Kateb University to continue her studies and study political science.
While studying at the university, she became involved in social, civic, and cultural activities, and in a group work experience with young people and students, she worked as a spokesperson for the Bright Stars Foundation. Referring to the poor economic situation of families and students, she says: “We did not have a promising response from the authorities to improve the situation of students, the authorities were negligent in terms of growth and capacity building of young people.”
The disorganization of the officials regarding the fate of the youth became one of the causes of the collapse of the Republic system; Because the youth fell into the trap of Taliban propaganda. For more than a year, Soraya worked as a member of the Human Resources Department of the Ministry of Public Works and finally resumed her media work, starting as a producer of political and news programs for Tolo News.
Soraya says: “Although at the beginning of her term she was afraid of the great mission she had undertaken, she mentions communication with people across Afghanistan, telling the truth and the voice of the people by the people as a pleasant experience.
Soraya was the producer of news and political programs Hamgam Ba Roydadha, Nima Rooz, and Jahan Numa on Tolo News Network, and after a year and a half, she became the producer of night political programs, Mehwar programs, Khabar Shash, Farakhabar, and 10 o’clock news.
The main topics of discussion in the Afghan media were violence against women, elections, peace, the deaths of soldiers, and the targeted killings of journalists, which Soraya and other women produced behind the scenes on television.
In addition to all her media responsibilities, Soraya had good plans for her future in Afghanistan and even outside Afghanistan, but not so soon.
The story of the fall of Kabul
on August 15, 2021. As always, Soraya was ready to go to work. Her sister who has already left home to work calls her and says:” Stay at home because there is chaos outside.” She continues: “The Taliban have come and are entering Kabul through several gates.
Soraya can not stay at home, she waits for the car to take her to her office, but the car does not reach Soraya’s house until noon that day. The driver tells Soraya that he is stuck in traffic and it is not possible to drive. Soraya decides to go to her office by taxi. There was no taxi on the busy streets of Kabul. After a long walk from Dasht-e Barchi to Dehmzang, Soraya found a taxi to take her to her office.
“People’s lives were very unusual. While I was sitting in a taxi, I could only see the crowds by the window of the taxi. Even I had lost myself, and every time I notice the sound of my cell phone, I jumped, But I could not answer the phone until I realized that my mother had called me many times due to great concern and I had not answered. When I answered the phone, my mother insisted that I be careful and if I could go home, I said ok. After hearing the word “okay”, the taxi driver told me to get off. I said why? He answered “I do not know which foreigner you were talking to. If the Taliban find you in my taxi, we both will be in trouble.”
Eventually, she is dropped off in the Shahre_Naw district, she tries again to find a taxi and go to work, but there is still no taxi.
I started walking again when I was called by the office and told that all the female employees had been off by the office and that you were also on leave and do not come to the office. I walked to go home. The direction people ran, I ran too. Most people have even forgotten their way home. “I also walked from Shahre_Naw to Dehmzang again, and from there I went to a friend’s house for security reasons.”
Soraya could not rest, she was trying to coordinate her plans from home. On the afternoon of August 15, the first day of Taliban rule in Kabul, her job independence was violated by the Taliban.
During the coordination of the guests of my program with my colleagues, I noticed the message of a Taliban member in WhatsApp, who said, “Invite me to your program tonight to explain the situation to the people.” He also suggested two other Taliban members as guests for tomorrow night and two nights later.
Soraya says that she used to be independent in choosing their guests for the programs, but on the first day of the Taliban rule and for the first time even the guests had been scheduled for the next three days by the Taliban, which was unexpected and unacceptable to me.
I can honestly tell you that we had many reports of districts and provinces falling to the Taliban, but there was no media or journalists who knew that Kabul was to fall to the Taliban. With the escape of Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban dared to enter Kabul.
We went to our offices four days after the Taliban ruled and the city was in turmoil. The gates of schools and universities were closed and the presence of people in the city was very little, but the influx of people to the airport for fear of the Taliban leaving the country was more unfortunate.
The female reporters went to the scene four days later to cover the news; No one was willing to be interviewed, unusual people standing on all sides with long, disheveled hair and weapons.
However, Tolo TV had returned to the stage with female reporters, making headlines around the world, and it was hoped that women journalists would be able to continue their careers in the same way. But Tolo news network reporters were not safe due to the publication of the most serious reports and articles about the Taliban. The suicide attack on the Tolo vehicle, Yama Siyawash assassination, and some other reporters increased the concerns of their safety. So Tolo News Network decided to expel some vulnerable journalists.
The story of immigration
My family agreed to leave the country with a decision by our office to save the lives of journalists and several other prominent media figures. The call I received from my office I had to get to the airport by one o’clock in the afternoon.
We were driving from Barchi district to Kabul airport through fear and panic, I was not interested in seeing outside the car. I have never seen people lined up outside the car on the streets in Afghanistan. Where have they lived all these years?
I saw the failed attempts of the people to survive behind the closed gates of the airport. We experienced fear, dread, terror, and misery with all our being. I did not even know where I was going and why I was going. If I survive, can I remain silent? These were questions that came to my mind and I always asked myself.
About thirty media workers and their families gathered in a place and waited to enter the airport, and we stayed behind the airport gate without water and bread until four in the morning. Some of us returned home disappointed, and some of us resisted and waited to open the airport gate. When the gate did not open overnight, we returned home; But at five o’clock in the evening, we were called to the Serena Hotel. We stayed at the Serena Hotel until midnight then entered the airport with city buses and spent another two days and nights at the airport without water or bread. My colleagues had even more difficult situations with their children, including Maryam Khorami, the host of Tolo morning programs, Shuja Zaki, the host of Khabar Shash and political debates, Shogofa Danish, Hasiba Atakpal, and Zahra Rahimi. After two days of waiting at the airport, we were transferred to Qatar and then to Albania, and after four days we went to a remote area of Albania and we were the first group of 52 immigrants to be transferred to Albania. Two weeks later, other immigrants were transferred. Although we went to a safe place and had better living facilities, what made me and my colleagues depressed was hearing bad news from Afghanistan, family separation, frustration, deprivation of girls, and an explosion at Kabul airport. On January 19th, we flew from Triana to Germany and then to Canada, and are now based in the Canadian province of Michigan.
The narration of immigration after the Taliban takeover
Many young people and other compatriots may wish to live in comfort in the United States and Canada, even myself, but I have not yet become accustomed to this way of life. Because the job for Afghans here is to work in restaurants and shops where I am not ashamed, but my profession is journalism and storytelling and I wish I could continue my work as a journalist.
In Afghanistan, despite numerous reports of violence against women, war, and human rights abuses, Afghan women have made significant achievements in all areas of their lives that have been lost overnight.
Protest and resistance of women against the Taliban
I am proud of the presence of women on the streets under the control of the Taliban! This means how much the women of Afghanistan have changed and reached enlightenment and do not bow to any oppression and petrification. These protests are not an easy task, they are risking their lives to achieve freedom and equality!
We do not expect the Taliban to hear these voices; But what is shameful is the silence of the world towards the protests of Afghan women. Why are Afghan women deprived of their freedoms and achievements and ruled by an oppressive and illiterate terrorist group? I expect the international community to help us as the human force of land where we have lost everything.
Translated by: Jahan Raha