Woman, Life, Freedom : a misunderstood concept ?

We are now in the fifth month of the women-oriented movement “Woman, Life, Freedom” or the #Jina_Revolution (derived from the name of Jina “Mehsa” Amini). A movement that started in Kurdistan, then included the rest of Iran’s regions and spread to an extent that it attracted the attention of the people of the world. There has been a lot of global support for this movement, both from the people and from the media, from politicians and thinkers.

A kind of support that still continues thus far. The “Charlie Hebdo” magazine also published issues in support of this movement and published caricatures criticizing the oligarchy ruling class of Iranian clergy. But some of these cartoons were against the content and message of the women’s movement of Kurdistan and Iran, and therefore were criticized by some feminist activists, especially the feminists in Kurdistan.

Before addressing criticism towards Charlie Hebdo, I must spend some time to shed needed light on the Jina Movement itself and also explain the mechanism of how “power” functions in modern Iran. For without this short introduction, the critiques towards the Charlie Hebdo magazine could not be properly justified and explained.  

Control the women to control the people

The Jina Movement emphasizes the centrality of women in social change and development. As time passes, the discursive and epistemological nature of this movement deepens even further. But on the other hand, the patriarchal currents that still continue their activities with the same patrimonial reactionary thoughts, generate a serious effort to divert the movement and cut off its progressive and egalitarian features. Some of these currents have tried to reduce the effectiveness of the movement by creating reactionary slogans against the strategic slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” to weaken and even destroy its liberating and radical dimensions.

They only have a problem with the government system established in Iran, and they solely want to replace the current regime with another regime that will protect the interests of the new ruling class. In fact, they are not trying to change the current patriarchal, centrist, mononational and non-democratic social relations, but they just want to take control of power and government without any radical change in the social structure. The monarchists, pan-Iranists and religious fanatics such as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran are among these very groups. Although they do not have a significant following inside Iran, they have taken control of the media outside of Iran and have gained a much bigger voice than their actual weight. But the goal of the Jina Movement is far higher and greater than removing one group from power and replacing it with another group in their place.

In the meantime, it is very important to preserve the true core and nature of the movement, which is based on the complete equality of people on the basis of a women-centered movement. There are many reasons for basing the desire of social transformation on the axis of women, and I will limit myself to mention only two of previous-mentioned reasons :

  • As the French thinker Michel Foucault says, “power” always tries to dominate people’s bodies and applies and imposes its norms on the body through various physical and discursive means; because the control of the body has a direct relationship with the expansion of the sphere of “power”. Foucault sees power as something that is widespread in all relationships and areas of human life, where everything and everyone are in its constant motion[1]. Although, according to Foucault’s definition, power is not only defined in the definition of the government as the governing structure of the society, but without a doubt, government structures are among the most important factors that contribute to the power mechanisms that exercise control over the body. In Iran, even before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the monarchy had comprehensive programs to control the bodies of people, especially women, including the mandatory law of removing the hijab for women and wearing European-styled clothes and hats for men during the dictatorship of Reza Khan, the father of Mohammad Reza, whose government was overthrown in the 1979 revolution. The Islamic government of Iran also opted for the subjugation of the human body and especially women as one of the most fundamental pillars of its power expansion from the very beginning of its formation. This attempt was made through a religious Islamist reading in which women are considered to be a man’s property and honor, and men can dominate women and their bodies in any way they please. The imposition of the compulsory hijab law on the Iranian women’s society and the great effort to assimilate women, both in terms of clothing and in terms of worldview, were among the strategies of the new government to control women. In addition to using coercive and forceful power, they also tried to impose and institutionalize their religion-based laws on the society by using the mechanisms of the modern world such as the media and the education system.

  • On the other hand, the order governing the current world has been formed on the basis of patriarchy for thousands of years and still continues to exist. The main victim of this order has undoubtedly been “human equality“. Because it is based on the supremacy of the male over the female, and despite many legal reforms and social changes throughout history, mankind has still not been able to overcome the patriarchal-based structure. It is this that has led to the subjugation and deprivation of women from equal human rights throughout history, but this has not the only consequence. Institutionalization, postulation, and consequently taking human inequality for granted has exposed the entirety of human natural existence to face serious risks. This idea has made humans – it is clear that its means the male man who has dominated history – consider himself entitled to take any action to increase his power and pleasure. Granting authenticity to Added Value and Gross Domestic Product as a measure of economic development and adopting a Fordist economic approach – unlimited consumption for unlimited production – are one of the results of this inequality-seeking attitude by humans, which has now exposed the environment to destruction. Therefore, it can be said that no effort to overcome the super crisis facing humanity and save the planet will succeed unless it puts the principle of complete equality of human beings at the center of its discourse.

Currently, the social movement of Kurdistan and Iran with the light of knowledge shone on these facts, wants to destroy the current oppressive system and order and take steps towards the creation of a completely new world in accordance with the natural and fundamental human rights. Maybe this statement seems very idealistic, but we have no other way and we cannot save life except by fundamentally changing the way we live in the world.

In addition, the Jina Movement has the ability and capacity to establish such a radical action, because due to the fact that women have been the most oppressed class of human society, also have the greatest potential for human liberation. Insisting on women’s rights will put the movement on the right track of full human equality. All the great turning points in human history were initially considered idealistic and out of reach, so the radicalness of the goal does not mean that it is unachievable.

Furthermore, Iran’s former and current regimes have each tried to expand their power to the smallest layers of individual and social life in different ways. This practice, which was well ongoing in the period before the revolution of 1979, continued with more vigor and in a greater wave during the Islamic regime after the revolution. In current Iran, the process of controlling people has passed through the control of women’s bodies, and the government has tried to introduce women’s bodies as a taboo matter.

From the very beginning, Mullahs and the clergy described the previous government as an immoral and promiscuous regime that kept women away from their “chastity and virginity“. Therefore, they had to establish their rule by restoring their desired religious values to the society, and the most important part of this conquest came back to the issue of women. In fact, the change in the image and role of women in the new Iran became a manifestation of the power of the new regime.

Therefore, compulsory hijab was imposed on women’s heads and bodies, and their roles as household caretakers and mothers were strongly promoted and even sanctified. At first, a part of the women’s community resisted this anti-feminist trend, but they were not seriously supported by any of the political currents inside or outside of the state. The regime severely repressed them and constantly increased its misogynistic laws to even greater lengths.

With the passage of time and under the influence of the government’s ideological system, the society adapted itself to the values of the government for about two decades, and the social space became much more limited and difficult for women. In fact, it was not only the government that restricted and oppressed women, but the society did as well, which had a long history of patriarchy behind it, became a partner of the government in suppressing women. In such a way that in the public mentality of the people, women were a commodity belonging to men and any deviation of women from religious and male-oriented values were considered as an unforgivable crime. These developments intensified and deepened sexist schism and sexist literature and patriarchal behavior, and sexism thus expanded even more in the society. The situation was in such a state that matters pertaining to the issue of women, the opponents of the regime were not seriously different from the regime itself.

In Iran’s religiously-ingrained patriarchal system, the woman’s body became the epitome of vice and inferiority. Every negative thing and attribute is compared to a woman’s body, and a woman’s body is considered only if it fully conforms to the will of the government and the religiously-ingrained society.

A review of the Iran special issue of Charlie Hebdo

Nevertheless, since about two decades ago and as a result of social developments and women’s own struggles, this process in its social aspect slowed down to some extent and gradually the space for opposing the subjugation of women became more open. The women struggle ignited once again and this coincided with the gradual decline of the legitimacy belonging to the Islamic regime amongst its people. In the process of struggle, women correctly recognized that one of their main duties is to fight and reject sexism in all its forms, and they should not remain silent in front of any of the manifestations of sexist attitudes – be it action, speech, law or media representation, or let it pass by with a blind eye.

The experience of the 1979 revolution and its failure to achieve its goals has become a great experience for women. They have correctly understood that any neglect or tolerance towards issues related to women’s rights will lead to the reproduction of the old patriarchal order, and even if the current regime falls, we cannot have much hope for the institutionalization of human equality. This is why the radical part of the Iranian women’s movement made the fight against sexism one of its top priorities.

Thus, in the light of this very brief introduction, it should be considered if all the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo were consistent with the goals of the women’s movement of Iran and Kurdistan?

The cover of the January 4, 2023 issue of “Charlie Hebdo.”

Unfortunately, in some cartoons of this magazine, especially in the most famous of them, it shows the Mullahs and clergy going back into a woman’s stomach through her vagina, and this gives off an unsettling sexist viewpoint. In this caricature, the female body is once again represented as something inferior and low in status, as if the dictator Mullahs are only deserving to live in that low of a place. In another cartoon, Khamenei is shown with his clothes off and it is revealed that he has a female body. The “Tawar Collective”, which is one of the Kurdish feminist women’s collectives, wrote in this regard:

In one of the cartoons, mind you in France, which claims to defend women’s freedom and right to their bodies… Khamenei’s naked body is shown in the form of a woman’s body, which is stripped of its dignity and everyone sees her body (as if he has been dishonored) ). It is as if a woman’s body in itself is a source of shame and should not be seen. In fact, the apparently progressive Charlie Hebdoi directly repeats the Iranian government’s patriarchal discourse about the female body. In another cartoon, to convey the message of the fall of that regime, Mullahs are depicted returning to their mother’s vagina. In addition to the fact that the woman’s body was also targeted here, it was pretended that the European governments had no role in the establishment of this anti-feminist repressive government![2].

Cartoon by James, a UK-based cartoonist. JAMES

It can be safely said that the view of the designers and the editorial board of Charlie Hebdo magazine on the issue of women is still simplistic and lacks any kind of perspective and epistemological depth. They have reduced the support of the women’s movement of Kurdistan and Iran to a purely political support – that too in the everyday sense of politics. The reason for this issue should be sought in the lack or poverty of the epistemological foundation.

Understanding issues related to humanity requires pre-existing knowledge related to that issue, and in most cases this knowledge must be obtained from several branches of scientific approaches. Maybe they thought to themselves that in contrast to the mandatory hijab policy of the Iranian regime, a woman’s body should be shown without a hijab and naked, and we should not shy away from portraying female genitals. Even if we tolerantly accept this simplistic notion with the benefit of the doubt under the title of “de-tabooing the female body“, we still cannot ignore their lack of knowledge about the way it was represented. The meaning hidden behind the above-mentioned caricatures indicates the continuation of the sexualized look at the female body as a low and inferior thing.

Showing a naked woman alone cannot lead to the removal of taboos from the female body, but this work must be done in a non-sexist and positively contextual setting. It is questionable whether the people involved in Charlie Hebdo basically have any knowledge of the concept of sexism? If they have, then why have they reproduced the same attitude view?

Maybe their idea of a struggle is based on the logic of armed war; in war, whichever side has most and more effective weapons and ammunition will win. Does Charlie Hebdo think that with more and more blatant sexism, they can go to war against the sexism of the Mullahs and the clergy regime and win?! Don’t they really know that the logic of this struggle is very different from armed war and conflict, and repeating any sexist ideas or action will lead to the increase and reproduction of sexism in turn?

Such support for the women’s struggles of Kurdistan and Iran will not serve their movements best interests, but will in fact only strengthen the other anti-feminist authoritarian currents that are in opposition of the regime as well. The currents that, tomorrow after the fall of the Islamic Republic, will implement the plan to control human bodies and especially women’s bodies with complete authority, and thus the void cycle of the birth of a new dictatorship from the heart of the old dictatorship will continue. The Jina movement is still developing its discourse, because even some women and activists within the movement are still unable to recognize its true content and sometimes fall into the trap of conservative currents.

The progressive and radical composition of women activists in the Jina Movement have made a continuous and very challenging effort to institutionalize its basic concepts and to face the deviations and dangers ahead. We should not add to their problems under the title of “solidarity and support”, any kind of support for this movement first of all requires a complete understanding of its foundations and goals. This is not solely a protest movement against the status quo, but a radical social movement that wants to uproot the foundation of inequality and destroy the opportunity to reproduce oppression in newer forms. The Jina movement, which obviously has universal dimensions, is one of the great chances of mankind to understand the current multiple super-crises and find ways to deal with them.

Therefore, even when having daily comments and conversations about this movement, one should be very sensitive, because slipping and diverting from its foundations will lead to the reproduction of misogyny and the strengthening of the movement’s enemies and opponents.

The problem of the editors of Charlie Hebdo is not that they have a bad intention behind supporting this, but that they have no knowledge of the history of Kurdistan and Iran, and they have not understood the historical and philosophical roots of “Women, Life, Freedom” as they should. Furthermore, there is another universal problem, which is the weakening of philosophical and radical visions to change the human world. For several decades, the world order has been teaching us that there is no way to transition from the current order and that it is only within this order that it is possible to think about any change.

This limitation has caused humanity to no longer have big dreams and aspirations and to accept a set of incomplete hypotheses that are inconsistent with the principle of “human equality” as definitive and proven issues. For this reason, people often think about human phenomena with an incomplete mentality and stereotypical world view. Charlie Hebdo is one of the publications that has a high profile and has a significant impact on its audience, for this reason, the managers of this publication should first of all think more in-depth and sensitively about their subjects. Second of all, they should gradually strip themselves of the conservative covering and clichés and dare to think radically. Undoubtedly, the history of French thought can provide an opportunity for such a courageous act on their part!

Adnan Hassanpour

[1]. For information about this theory, go to:

Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité, Paris, Gallimard, 1994 [1976]

[2]. https://www.instagram.com/p/CnCc0x3Nrjn/

Urgent. Journalist and old resident of the MDJ Mortaza Behboudi captured in Afghanistan


This morning, February 6, 2023, the news of the detention of journalist Mortaza Behboudi in Afghanistan 30 days ago, while he was doing a report alone, was made public. Reporters without Borders and 14 French media are indignant of this removal and demand his immediate release in an article, much like the Maison des Journalistes.

Mortaza Behboudi restrained in Kabul 

According to the most recent information from Reporters without Borders, the journalist was detained at a Kaboul prison since January 7, 2023, while he had arrived on Afghan soil only two days prior. The organization indicated in their report of having “exhausted all their resources” to free Mortaza, although they had succeeded in “establishing a channel of communication” with the Taliban. He will be subjected to an accusation of espionage. Photo-journalist since 2012, Mortaza Behboudi worked for the medias Ava Press, Bakhtar News, and for his own journal Bazar.


He had fled Afghanistan in 2015 after an attempt to report on his birth city, in the province of Wardak. He had then been arrested by a group of Taliban, who had confiscated his materials and identity papers. Worried about the contents of his films that could have caused retaliation against him, Mortaza fled to Iran in fear for his life. Having already visited France in the name of the Afghan ambassador in Paris, the photo-journalist had been invited the same year to the event Paris International Model United Nations, where he took advantage of the opportunity to request a visa and asylum in France. He was then welcomed to the Maison des Journalistes at the end of 2015. 

A Professional in Afghanistan Since His Youth

“We call on the Taliban regime to put a term to this senseless situation. Mortaza Behboudi is a reputed journalist, respected and appreciated by his colleagues. We hope that our message will be carried all the way to the capital of Afghanistan in the office of authorities who took the decision of his arrest and who hold the key to his liberation,” declared Reporters without Borders this morning. “He collaborates with numerous French and french-speaking medias : France Télévisions, TV5 Monde, Arte, Radio France, Mediapart, Libération, La Croix, notably. He is a co-author to the reporting series ‘Across Afghanistan, Under the Taliban’, published on Mediapart which had been awarded a prize in 2022 by the Bayeux prize for war correspondents and the Varenne prize for the daily national press. He contributed to the reporting of  ‘Afghan Girls Sold to Survive’, broadcasted on France 2, which will be equally awarded in 2022 by the Bayeux prize,” we can read on the site of France Info. 

Shocked by such an arbitrary detention, the Maison des Journalistes maintains its unconditional support to Mortaza Behboudi and call for his immediate freedom. 

Written by Maud Baheng Daizey, translated by Amelia Seepersaud.

Exclusive. Does the end of the war in Tigray mean the return of freedom of the press ? 


After two years of tug-of-war between the government of Abiy Ahmed and the Liberation Front of Tigray (TPLF), the conflict seems to have arrived at its end. The exact number of victims as well as the precise unfolding of events however remain to be determined, the Tigray region had been closed to journalists since 2021. With peace, is the return to the press possible in the region? 

The MDJ had the opportunity to contact journalists and defenders of media based in Ethiopia to inquire about the situation. If the violence in Tigray ended up stopping, the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara are the new theater of human cruelty. Moreover, massacres are often still reported in the war-torn region by the war, the population fearful that this one will not know a short truce. 

Tens of thousands of deaths in two years

The conflict started in November 2020, when the Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed attempted to organize elections in the Tigray region in the north of the country, in which a part of the inhabitants claimed independence. The regional authorities had defied the power for some months already and the prime minister Ahmed no longer intended to be silent. Accusing the TPLF of having attacked the military bases, the prime minister had then sent his army to Tigray. But the armed rebels would not let the military reach the capital region Mekele, repelling them from day one. 

The rebels of the TPLF had then won all of Tigray to “liberate” it from Abiy Ahmed’s government. Numerous testimonies denouncing hundreds of abuses by the army and the rebels, provoking the death of tens of thousands of people, implying thousands of rapes and pushing two millions Tigrayans into exile. For two months, the famine threatens the 13 millions of Tigrayans traumatized by the war, while the destruction of infrastructures leads to grave problems with water supply for numerous cities. 

The situation is such that Doctors Without Borders announced in July 2021 to stop their activities in the region, following the death of three members of their staff on June 24. Hundreds of sexual abuses had equally traumatized the population, committed as much by the separatist rebels as the Abiy Ahmed regime, however without any media coverage. As the freedom of the press was already restrained, the Ethiopian journalists and localized foreigners in Tigray were forced out in November 2021, i.e. one year since the start of the war. 

Despite the peace, the press is always muzzled

Abiy Ahmed’s government banned the coverage of military operations in Tigray, Afar and Amara and imprisoned journalists during their reporting, according to NGOs and several reporters. We contacted the African branch of the Committee of Journalists Protection, an international NGO, that indicated to us, “there isn’t any assurance on a return of journalist security in Tigray or the opening of possible investigations on crimes that they would have suffered.” They also informed us of the liberation of three journalists of the channel Tigray TV,  “but two others are still in detention,” according to Mythoko Mumo, responsible for the Sub Saharan branch of the CPJ. 

The peace treaty between the Ethiopian federal authority and the Tigrayan rebels was signed on November 2, 2022, formalizing the disarmament of the TPLF. The federal authorities are now working on the reestablishment of the electric current, to deliver humanitarian aid in famine stricken areas, and to retrieve the heavy arms used by the TPLF. The federal army and the foreign forces (Erythrée) were also invited to withdraw from the country under the peace agreement. 

An apparent return to normal, because many interrogations remain in suspense without the work of media actors. Certain men and women nevertheless tried to bring some information to Ethiopia and the international community.

Amongst the whistleblowers, Solomon Weldegerima and Isaac Welday, two investigative journalists revealed the names of prisoners to the general public, although the communication services in Tigray are only partially restored.

Solomon Weldegerima is a Tigranyan journalist who worked in a regional media before the war. He fled his house during the repeated assaults not far from his home, being a prime target as a journalist. For him, his colleagues and himself would soon have new access to Tigray, in the controlled zones by the federal government and international forces. “On the other hand, they will not access the zones under the yoke of the TPLF.” Solomon explains, “to battle for the truth,” and to have no fear of belligerents. For him, “peace cannot return as long as the TPLF,” which he did not hesitate to label, “a terrorist group,” stays in power.

Solomon Weldegerima during a press conference.

Solomon has not lived in Tigray for two years, but at the border of the region where he reached during this period to obtain information on the war from the inside. The reporter only has one goal: to show the atrocities committed by the army and the TPLF, as well as to combat the “the propaganda” of the rebels in the region. His last excursion, of which he does not wish to communicate the exact date, lasted two days. He obtained information from locals who still have an internet connection, although it is very unreliable, “mainly workers for NGOs or humanitarian associations. I include people supporting the governmental action and those considering that the TPLF is at the origin of the war. Some anti-TPLF fighters spoke to me also. Many of them were only able to interact with me with the restoration of government communication services.”

Not a word on the abuses of the army of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who according to numerous external observers had participated in murderous raids and campaigns of mass rapes, as well as blocked the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“The TPLF was the first in declaring the war during a blitz fomented by the leader Seque Turea. They should be held entirely responsible for the war. However, abuses have been committed by the two camps, and all the individuals that had participated should be arrested and judged.” 

“I could not move freely, I was terrorized by the rebels. They threatened anyone not supporting their version of the facts and considered them as enemies to Tigray to be destroyed.” 

He says he was blackmailed by the TPLF for doing his job as a journalist, including the leaking of his personal information. That does not stop him though: “an ethiopian proverb says: hilmi ferihka leydekeska aytihedry, you cannot sleep without being frightened by a dream. Mine is to expose the truth. I know that the TPLF is dangerous but as long as I fight for my people, the risk is worth it.”

The journalist affirms that some journalists “governmental and independent” will soon be able to have the right to go to Tigray again, “notably in the regions under the control of the ENDF, the ethiopian army: Welkayt, Shre, Adwa, Aksum. Raya remains accessible.”

He also confirms, “the atrocities committed by the rebels: the mass rapes, robberies, and destruction,” have been commonplace in Tigray for two years now, “but also in the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.” 

Propaganda, the number one enemy of the press

Solomon repeats it on multiple occasions throughout our interview, the intense propaganda of the TPLF interferes with the understanding of events within the region, further dividing the population. For two years, I struggle against the rebels through the debunking of fake news, in order to allow my people and the international community to shed light on the war. We should realize the gravity of the danger that the TPLF represents.” He hopes that he will soon be able to return home freely. Moreover, he decided to launch his media in order to distribute his own information. 

Isaac Welday, another independent journalist, had reported in the media on the arrests of five Tigrayan journalists in May and July of 2022 by the federal authorities for covering events in the region. He tells us he had worked for the interim government, a little before the start of the war. 

He subsequently left his job to concentrate entirely on his vocation as a journalist. “I want to re-establish the truth, I am not on anyone’s side,” he assured over the phone. On three occasions, I was arrested by the federal government and placed in custody. For him, the rebels, like the government, “are torturers. They are anti-journalists and against all the actors of peace,” civil or not.

For the director of the African office of Reporters Without Borders, Sadibou Marong, the speech is not so clear-cut. “The peace agreement is a good sign for the future, notably for a better circulation of information and journalists in the country. But there is always the fear of retaliation and numerous journalists prefer to stay safe abroad. It is up to the authorities to work on their return and give them guarantees. According to him, the bigger problem resides “in the control of the narrative of the war, i.e. the propaganda and misinformation on social networks that has been picked up by the media.”

The NGO has struggled since the start of the war against this propaganda, “that we find as much within the TPLF and the federal government. The authorities spoke of a security operation but it was really a war,” he stated. The TPLF and the central power are guilty of abuses and arbitrary detentions. When the war broke out we helped to assassinate and detain journalists. Certain people were accused of promoting terrorism and were sentenced to death. Others were persecuted by the federal authorities and had to go into exile abroad or seek assistance.”

The peace has been signed between the parties since November 2, 2022 only, highlighting its fragility. Despite the violence that endures in the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara, the african and european Unions try to endorse the peace agreement, like the head of foreign diplomacy Catherin Colonna on January 12 and 13. She was accompanied by her counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, and president of the African Commission, Moussa Faki. The total balance of victims remains unknown, due to poor documentation despite the efforts of several journalists who remained in place. The repatriation of the exiled, the counting and judicial processing of crimes during these two years, the future of the TPLF and Tigray remains a problem without solutions that multiple parties have yet to discuss. 

Written by Maud Baheng Daizey, translated by Amelia Seepersaud.

Guinea. The Presse at the Front Against the Military Junta


Alhussein Sano is a Guinean intellectual wearing many labels combed by numerous étiquettes : journalist, tv animator, producer and director of institutional documentaries and fiction. He entered the media world with the creation of his agency MAXI PLUS in 1995 and he can boast journalistic experience of 28 years. Today welcomed at the Maison des Journalistes, Alhussein recalled to us the weakening of the freedom of the press in Guinea through his journeys and his trials. 

In 2007, his show CLAP centered on the arts and the culture integrating the program of national television (RTG1) is his biggest pride. Satisfied audiences, the chain asks him to perfect the grill programs to leave in 2009.Despite the pretty professional route offered to him, Hussein notes nevertheless, that the replacements within the chain RTG are based on his ethnic group: “the administration of the RTG was very malinkinized to leave in 2010 (NDLR: the ethnic group Malinké became the majority in the house of the administrators), it was impressive : the new editorial line was now based on the praise of the new president of the time, Alpha Condé,” in contempt of journalistic neutrality.

Despite a chaotic political situation, Alhussein was named director of programs in 2013, “on proposal of the director at the time.” He continues his projects for RTG and MAXI PLUS, “one of the best-equipped production companies in the country.” 

The ethnic group, central element of the life of a Guniean journalist

But, in February 2019, while the president Alpha Condé started his second term, the country was on fire. Reluctant to renounce the president of the country, the ex-Chief of State then tried to modify the Constitution, triggering violently repressed protests and the anger of the opposition. Elections are organized despite the dozens of deaths, reaffirming his position for a third term in 2020. The coup d’État of the Military Junta on January 5, 2021 ended by carrying out his impeachment. 

A somber period for Alhussein, and this from 2019 : invited by the general director of RTG at the meeting of his political party, the RPG, Alhussein understands that they are expected to return to their ranks. “He said it was a good opportunity for me because I belong to the ethnic group Malinké like him,” one of the main ethnic groups in the country and of which Alpha Condé is from. “Your proposition had shocked me,” we explained our JRI in an implacable tone. “I told him that my journalism career demanded I be impartial in my work.A resistance that cost him his housing and he paid by exile. He affirms “never having accepted his proposition because this line of broken community didn’t play any role on me, and above all, I didn’t remember their project of the third term. Over time the divorce between us had been definitive.

Little by little, Alhussein saw his responsibilities and his work get trampled : the simple refusal of participation at a political meeting was enough to destroy his career in Guinea. “I was excluded from all activities of the chain. Our relationships were really poisoned because of my cousin Abdourahamane Sano, National Coordinator of the FNDC (National Front for the Defense of the Constitution), one civic grouping opposed by the Military Junta.

The elevated price of the resistance of the press

Photo d’Elijah Merrell.

Main political opponent, FNC is at the start of the movement of protests against the modification of the constitution to validate the accession of Alpha Condé for a third presidential term. The CNRD proposed to his cousin to be a part of the transition government, which he had refused. He fanned the ire of the regime, who was therefore concentrated on Alhussein.

I was then replaced by a militant of the RPG party at my job, for breaking my career plan.” As if this wasn’t enough, Alhussein was demoted as Head of Production and Directing for RTG2, a channel that doesn’t broadcast. Always having the fierce urge to do his job and equipped with his production box, the Guinean journalist was focused on his projects, notably the direction of a documentary on the activities of the FNDC, for which his cousin worked. Unfortunately for him, the difficulties didn’t stop there. He explains that, “following a coup d’état on September 5, 2021, perpetrated by the military group CNRD (National Committee for the Rally of Development), the Gunieans thought they were losing an executioner (Alpha Condé)and believed they found a hero, the head of the military juntas, the colonel Mamady Doumbouya.” However, as Alhussein reminds us well, Mamady Doumbouya “had witnessed and participated in the execution of the Alpha regime.

Skeptic, Alhussein observes the noose tighten around the Guinean journalists, including himself. “The military regimes are often disrespectful of human rights and use all of the media to reduce the silence of the executives and political leaders who don’t share their ideas,” deplores the journalist. 

In January 2022, Alhussein was invited to a meeting with the new Secretary General of the ministry of Communication, in order to revise the programs of RTG1 and 2. Explaining his desire to maintain professional integrity, Alhussein hit a demagogic wall, costing him his post as Director of Programs. “The Secretary General challenged me harshly: ‘You always refuse to help us?’. I was really surprised by this reaction, then he added in the same tone: ‘When you will change your opinion, the doors of the department will be grandly open to you.’ All this verbal violence was suspicious. In April, there was a new meeting in the Director General’s office. Two men were facing me : the first said to me that he liked my show and the other told me that he wanted to watch my documentary on the members of the FNDC.”

A trap he did not fall for. “I responded that according to the contract, after directing, the producer had to recover the film with all the media and rushes used. They insisted in vain. I suspected they were there to trick me.

Over the discussion, the men present in the office of the General Director learned that Alhussein’s passport has expired. They then offer to make a photocopy of it to put an end to its administrative deadlock. Not fooled, Alhussein gives them only one passport, the other still holding his visa.I understood that they were intelligence agents who wanted to confiscate my valid passport. It is a very popular practice in Guinea,” he reasons not without pride.

The press, collateral damage of a political crisis

Following the fall of Alpha Condé facing the CNRD, the FNDC calls for new waves of protests against the military juntas. This one had indeed promised to hand over power to civilians, but it settled without announcing an expiration date. 

CNRD and FNDC then clash on all fronts. “The military deemed it necessary to annihalate all the actors of the FNDC who had played a major role in the fall of Alpha Condé and all the supposed collaborators,” notably himself. On July 5, 2022, while the FNDC organized a press conference, its members were brutally arrested by the police and beaten in front of the cameras. They were released after a week at the demand of the people.

After the visit from governmental agents, Alhussein was forced to vacate his house without warning, summarily expelled. He therefore took refuge with his family at Hamadallaye, but it is watched and receives impromptu visits from the military, forcing him to hide with friends.

July 29, 2022, following a large civilian protest, Alhussein decided to hear from his family. “In less than 30 minutes, two hooded military pickups broke into the courtyard of the family home. They knew that I was there and they started to search the house, confiscating telephones, stealing our money and brutalising my sisters. I narrowly escaped by climbing over the backyard wall.” If he managed to escape, Alhussein would leave behind his precious computers, now in the hands of the military, as well as its assembly equipment.

In Guinea, when you are arrested, you can be killed immediately or be at risk of dying in prison or spend years there without being judged.

For him, the entire Guinean press is on borrowed time. “Of course, it was the same with Alpha Condé, there is a real continuity of his policy. We can’t say everything about the Guniean juntas and it shows.” Independent or state, the media has been and still is muzzled by the power. 

Last examples to date, a journalist convened in July after an article on a medical truck was blocked by the military, as well as another arrested for covering social work employees at a mine in Boké this year. A suffocating situation for Guineans, one of which it seems impossible to undo.

All the media is controlled by the High Authority for Communication, who kept the same president after Condé. Scripts are put together by the government and distributed to the public media. If a radio station wants to make a commercial, it will inevitably become political. They are the very expression and communication of power. If we don’t play the game, the journalists can be banned from the air.” says Alhussein. 

A little optimistic, he would like to continue his work in France, “where we protect freedom of expression. The state preserves liberty better, I can now speak of Guinea without worry. Even if the head of the military juntas leaves, all his men have been placed in the ministries, it would be an illusion.” A deadend in which Alhussein no longer plans to slip. Other Guineans continue nevertheless, to defy the power and the army by simply doing their job. Soldiers of information whose courage should not be forgotten. 

Written by Maud Baheng Daizey, translated by Amelia Seepersaud.

SYRIA. The difficult integration of citizens-journalists in the media industry

Since 2011, young Syrians have started working in journalism to document the conflict in their country themselves. Trained after a few years by several independent Syrian media such as Syria Direct and international organizations, they have since become seasoned journalists. For them, being a journalist rhymes with being an activist. A look back at ten years of struggle for press freedom with Manar Rachwani, a Syrian journalist born in the city of Hama in the 1970s.

Although Manar spent some years in Hama, he spent most of his childhood in Jordan in the 1980s. The “Hama massacre” in 1982 left the young boy and his family severely traumatized. Ordered by former president Hafez al-Assad (father of current president Bashar al-Assad) to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood rebellion, thousands of people in the city were murdered at the hands of the security forces and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Rachwani family survived only by a miracle, taking refuge in Jordan the same year. Manar has never seen his homeland since that tragic episode, but has never given up on the idea of returning one day. Proud of his education and multiple degrees in the humanities and social sciences, he became an experienced researcher and journalist. In Jordan, he was a columnist for the daily newspaper al-Arat (“Tomorrow“) between 2004 and 2017.

Far from wanting to stop there, Manar is set to be named editor-in-chief of Syria Direct in 2019, also in Jordan. Syria Direct having been forced into exile by the Syrian government, the news site operated from Amman, the Jordanian capital. “As you know, half of the Syrian population is displaced within the country,” he explains hastily.

And a quarter of the population has taken refuge in the nearest countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq), while others have decided to leave for Europe. The media are experiencing the same thing.” He himself was forced to flee again when the secret services in Jordan investigated him for his work.

The man found refuge in France in October 2021. “After spending some time in Paris, then in Rennes and a few days in Saint-Malo, I came back to settle at the Journalists’ House in January 2022.” With his white teeth and deep voice, Manar talks to the MDJ about citizen journalism in Syria, its origins and its particularities.

No rebellion without information

During the March 2011 revolution, I was in Jordan. At first, I knew that citizen journalists existed and worked in Syria, because I saw them in the media like everyone else. Then, during the rebellion, I had the chance to work with some of them when I was an editor. As a general rule, media activists are the primary source for knowing what is happening on the Syrian ground.”

The official media doesn’t talk about the revolution, but the citizen journalists do. Press freedom in Syria was totally non-existent until 2011, it was impossible to know what was really happening in the country. When the uprising started, the government said it was just a few protests here and there in the country. Thanks to these citizens, we saw quite the opposite.” This provoked the regime’s ire, labelling them as extremists spreading false information and killing the people. The other “government controlled, owned and run” media were then forced to publish propaganda and were forbidden to talk about anything else.

He considers himself lucky, however, to have moved to Jordan to escape the violence, and even luckier to have been able to work as a journalist for Jordanian media. “Most Arab countries do not accept foreigners as journalists for security reasons, and Jordan is one of them. But they needed qualified men and women at the time and had to hire me,” he says with an amused smile. This is why he cannot decently consider himself a citizen-journalist today, because of his training in established newspapers and professional media.

A profession threatened by both the regime and civilians

A picture from Alexander Andrews

Journalists were not so militant at the beginning, some started to speak more openly after weeks of conflict,” Manar explains in his calm voice. “After the shock, many journalists from the official media defected to the government. But with the violence of the terror regime imposed by the government, it was really hard to escape. For some, you can’t call them ‘media’ because their words are so dictated.”

A perfect example of the tense situation, the director of the private sector media Al-Watan is none other than the president’s own cousin, Rami Malkhouf, who is affiliated with the el-Assad regime. “Even journalists on el-Assad’s side are threatened, tortured or killed if they write about something they shouldn’t, or if they criticise the government.”

Many have been massacred with their families. Unfortunately, it is not only the regime that attacks the lives of journalists: terrorist groups remain a major threat to them. A few weeks ago, a media activist was killed with his pregnant wife. The suspects were identified but never prosecuted.

In addition to these enemies, the polarization of the population makes people put all their emotions into their work and lets the regime divide them into ethnic groups. Our role as journalists is also to shape mindsets by showing the unity of citizens, think about the future and young Syrians are not there yet.”

Citizens-journalists or journalists ?

For him, citizen journalists must be distinguished from other journalists in the world: the first category certainly has experience built up in the field, but does not benefit from years of training in “established newspapers”, they are self-taught. “I am trained as a journalist to follow professional standards and to be independent. The way we write, the way we publish our photos, the way we verify our information, everything is codified. Citizen-journalists in Syria are very emotional in their work because they live the bombings every day,” which leads to some self-interest.

Why did citizen journalists accept to put their lives in danger? Because they believe in the people and the rebellion, they were already committed,” explains Manar. “That’s why we have to be careful how we collect and verify information.”

Nevertheless, he insists on the importance of the work of these people, as for the Hama massacre in 1982: “nobody had heard about this massacre before the journalists revealed it. Of course, the Syrians were saying that “something happened in Hama” but no one could say for sure what exactly. Western countries thought that 1,000 people were murdered: thanks to these journalists, we now know that at least 25,000 people were killed.”

But after ten years of revolution, is this type of journalism destined to disappear or endure? Manar hesitates, his eyes glazed over, judging the situation too uncertain to decide. Citizen journalism has yet to survive the war, which could last for years. He hopes that this journalism will survive, because the world “needs to have someone on the ground in countries like Syria and other dictatorships and prove that rebellion is happening.”

To professionalize and protect media activists

But war is not the only modality to be taken into account: dictatorship, terrorism, poverty and journalists themselves could make this revolutionary trend disappear. “In Syria, there are two types of media: those based inside Syria and those based in foreign countries, in exile. Everywhere in Syria, the media are controlled by the regime even if they claim to be independent. Those operating outside Syria (for example in Turkey, Jordan or France) are more difficult to be independent. After all, they still need foreign money to keep running.”

“In Syria, polarization is very strong, the war keeps everyone poor and there is no exception for media that live on international funds. In this situation, they cannot be independent and neutral. Being independent is not only in relation to the regime, but also in relation to the donors.”

Finally, other “professional” journalists tend to criticise and underestimate the work of Syrians in order to dissociate themselves from it. “People question the usefulness of citizen journalists, saying that they are just media activists. When a citizen-journalist tries to work for a media outlet, he or she is often frowned upon because he or she has no experience in ‘real’ newsrooms.” This is another gap between these journalists and the population, while their work remains vital in the country.

For Manar, while citizen-journalists need to strengthen their professional skills, “their work for the free media remains underestimated and has become the work of the unemployed. This is not quite true! We cannot reject the work of all these media activists, but we cannot trust it in its entirety either. They put their lives at risk for us and for Syria and we have to give them some trust.”

Maud Baheng Daizey



Adnan Hassanpour is a Kurd Iranian journalist who has lived in the MDJ for two months. Facing the revolution that is shaking the Iranian power for three months, he gave us an interview to return to the origins and possible outcomes of these historic protests. 

Adnan Hassanpour was imprisoned for 10 years in Iran, from 2007 to 2016. Working for a Kurdish weekly had been accused and found guilty of espionage and of “separatist propaganda.” Condemned to death in 2007, a judge had converted the death penalty to 31 years in prison, which Adnan will never complete.

He spent the first seven years of incarceration in the Kurd city of Sanandaj (ou Siné), then two years in the Marivan prison, and finally one year in the Balochistan prison in Zāhedān. The region is found in the south of the country, in which the capital region is really in full revolution. 

More than 150 deaths during the protests of 2019

Not losing courage, Adnan Hassanpour continued to resist in the multiple prisons that welcomed him. Considered as the “dean” of journalist prisoners in Iran, he notably wrote a letter denouncing the services that the Kurds undergo in prison and in daily life, triggering the ire of the government and the president Hassan Rohani. 

Adnan was then sent even further in Balochistan, to punish him and to deprive him of his family. His letter about the bad treatment and harassment experienced by the Kurds had been shared in the media and made headlines for several weeks.

Still wanted today, Adnan Hassanpour once again drew the wrath of the government in 2019 for having spoken on three television platforms: BBC Perse, Iran International, and Radio Farda. He explained there that serious protests punctuated daily life in the country in that era, until November 2019, when the price of gas had slowed down the good performance of the demonstrations. 

He had cited Reuters and had confirmed that the government killed 1,500 people in the streets during these big protests that had been rumored on the internet. He ended up taking refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan before joining France in September 2022. Three friends had been accompanied in the same manner by the Maison des Journalistes some years earlier, which is why he came to seek refuge here when the Iranian regime forced him into exile. 

A journalistic revolution

Adnan does not hesitate to speak of “revolution” and “protests”, judging that, “these protests are revolutionary, which displeases the government.” In fact, “the journalists provoked the protests. Two persian women journalists distributed the news of the death of Masha/Jina Amini to the general public, which is why they are currently in jail. If the public took the hand of the media who triggered the protests and revived the anger of the people towards the government.”

The journalists and other media actors remain fully engaged, also for themselves by carrying their own demands alongside those of the people. To be a journalist in Iran pays more or less, without counting the level of danger: “the Kurdish journalists don’t earn money, they are completely voluntary. There is no organization, Kurdish journal or media to finance them.”

As for the Persian newspapers, their financial situation is only marginally better. “Journalism isn’t a valued profession in Iran,” hammers Adnan Hassanpour. “A lot of newspapers and TV shows were closed by the government because of protests and many journalists lost their work. As proof, the closing of the daily Jahan-é-Sanat (“The World of the industry) based in Tehran on November 21, 2022, condemned 40 journalists to unemployment.”

This economic newspaper criticized the country’s financial situation and did not escape censorship. The two Iranians who broke the news of Mahsa (or Jina from her Kurdish first name) Amini, are given names Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi and work in Tehran. They are detained today in the Evine prison, suspected by the government to have “close links with the CIA.” They risk the pain of death simply for having done their job. 

The worst is yet to come for the Kurdish newspapers and media, who have no means to defend themselves without money. If a dozen medias of this minority community existed in the country before the death of Mahsa Amini, there are only two today, with very limited influence. They distribute their information on social media, in the same manner that the population shares videos of protests.

“Kurdish televisions are also installed in Kurdistan and in Europe to escape the regime. In addition, two Persian televisions (BBC Perse and Iran International), opponents of the regimes, publish information on the protests and the Kurds. Kurdish media survives only on networks or far from Tehran, far from the prison. The videos are shot and shared by the citizens and directly feed the protests.” 

The indelible imprint of the Kurdish

Picture from Craig Melville.

But who leads and motivates the protests? Adnan Hassanpour is categorical: “Any Revolution in Iran starts with the Kurdish and then spreads nationwide.” As proof, the slogan of current mobilisations “Women Life Freedom,” initiated by the Kurdish community. “This slogan was issued by Kurdish combatants in Syria against Daesh, and today was reappropriated by the entire nations – especially the youth – whether you are Kurdish or Persian,” explains Adnan. If the two journalists who exposed the case of the death of Mahsa Amini are Iranian, it was Kurdish women who beat the pavement first. 

They subsequently involved the entire population and today worry the government. “All these protests prove the courage of the people. Despite the Islamic law, the women don’t wear the veil and the population sings ‘death to the dictator,’ a sign of the overflow of an exhausted people. Today the government no longer pressures Iranian women to wear their veil as much, one can say that they were surprised by the anger of the people. Iranians descended by millions in the street and this figure is not to be taken lightly. Adnan maintains a piece of frank optimism in him, assured that, “the protests today are more important than the ones of yesterday or of four years ago.”

As proof, the abolition of the morality police this Sunday, December 4. It was set up in 2006 to respect the dress code of the country and lashed out at women who did not cover their hair enough. Ordered by the attorney general of the country, Adnan remains skeptical as to the real application of the abolition.

“Unfortunately, the published information on the abolition of the morality police are not yet very reliable, because various Iranian officials made contradictory statements on the subject,” he lamented. “We think they want to appease the society in order to prevent the pursuit of protests. In my opinion, despite the disappearance of the morality police, the protests are going to not only increase but also spread out, because the people will be sure they have the ability to roll back the government.”

What people are crying for in the streets is the destruction of the government and, clearly, they don’t want to be content with limited reforms. For me, possible reforms will only be taken seriously by the people if they include clearly the revision of the constitution and the abolition of the post of Supreme Leader (Khamanei).”

Interesting fact, Adnan indicates after reflection, the very nature of these new riots. If the population had previously aimed for“the destruction of the government,” today it has placed, “the female axis at the center of its claims. It seeks to destroy all forms of traditional backwardness and anti-women, anti-freedom, anti-justice, and anti-rhetoric conservatives. From now on, the people are against all forms of oppression and discrimination. This is the Jina revolution.”

A revolution that still waits on the rest of the world

Moreover, he maintains good relationships with journalists and writers on the spot but, since the start of the clashes, major electricity and internet problems prevent communication. The first cuts were noticed at the dawn of the revolution, to try in vain to nip it in the bud. Since then, Adnan can no longer receive videos from his colleagues and the latter struggle to distribute them when they can. 

Thanks to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network in place for years in Iran, the list of arrested, missing, or killed Iranian writers and journalists continues to be regularly updated. Certain intellectuals were threatened with a death sentence for having helped the protests. This organization also worked in partnership with La Maison des Journalistes nine years ago, in order to welcome Iranian and Kurdish journalists. 

But, what can we do as ordinary western citizens, we may ask? The response is rather simple for Adnan: “It is necessary that governments stop political relations with the Iranian government and provide democratic support to the population. But, as an ordinary citizen, we can always carry our voice in the media and on social networks, which constitutes a very significant support for us, a lot of it is about raising awareness amongst the international community. Civilians can also place pressure on their own government to put an end to political relations with Iran and to push the country to listen to its people.”

Written by Maud Baheng Daizey, translated by Amelia Seepersaud

Afghanistan: women’s journalists cry of alarm

August 15, 2021 seems to have marked the death of the press in Afghanistan with the return to power of the Taliban. Abandoned to its fate by NATO and the United States, the country has been sinking for more than a year into total obscurantism. The regime promised to respect Human Rights, but its numerous exclusive and authoritarian policies have proven the opposite. In one year, the Afghan media have suffered so much repression that over 50% of them have disappeared. Dozens of journalists have been forced to flee the country to escape the government, without giving up on Afghanistan and their freedom. How do they organize themselves both abroad and in Afghanistan to make their voices heard and keep working and avoiding jail ?

In September 2021, the Taliban government imposed a directive containing 11 articles to censor and control the Afghan press and journalists. They use the media outlets to spread their own information, making the work of journalists very difficult. According to the report of SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, “laws have been enacted to prohibit the publication or broadcast of information considered against Islam or the regime.

More than half the media closed in Afghanistan

Since the takeover, at least 80 journalists have been arrested and all are subject to censorship. More than 51% of media outlets have been closed and 80% of women journalists have been left without jobs in 15 months. As a result, 10 out of 34 provinces in Afghanistan have no female journalists. Zan and Bano TV, two privately owned media outlets that were run by women, had to stop their activities and lay off their mostly female staff.

The most recent case is Kabul News TV, one of the largest news channels in the country. It was founded by former President Karzai’s former chief of staff, Karim Khorram. In recent years, the channel was in opposition to President Ghani’s government, but was closed in 2021 due to pressure from the Taliban and economic difficulties.

For several months, women and girls have seen their freedom shrink. They are no longer allowed to go to school or practice their profession, and the Afghan journalists who are still in place are fighting to keep their jobs. We were able to talk to one of them as well as colleagues now based in neighbouring Pakistan about their current condition and their means of fighting against censorship and the regime.

The many obstacles encountered in getting in touch with them are a sign of their difficulties: the telephone numbers of the refugee journalists in Pakistan can only be reached for a given period of time, before they are redistributed to other people.

Two contacts never answered our calls because their visas had expired and their telephone numbers had been given to another refugee. Others do not have control over their phones, with their brother or strangers answering for them.

The double punishment of the Afghan woman journalist

Fortunately, some were able to answer our calls. Banafsha Binesh is an Afghan woman still living in Kabul and working for TOLOnews, Afghanistan’s leading TV news channel. We had to wait until the second call when she was alone to interview her and get straight answers.

Banafsha Binesh for TOLOnews.

We are working in very bad conditions,” she tells us. “Censorship is extremely strict and there are more and more bans on our work. For example, a while ago I covered a UN event on the situation of Afghan women. Representatives were criticising the Taliban agenda and policies and we were banned from broadcasting our story because we are not allowed to criticise the regime.” With composure and pride, Banafsha Binesh assures us that she does not want to be anonymised because she is “already fighting the Taliban from Kabul.

But why does she continue to work despite censorship and danger? Apart from the need to “make the voices of women and the Afghan people heard“, the journalist explains that she is the only one who can support her family financially. TOLOnews has not escaped the repression and has itself reduced the number of its employees, but Banafsha Binesh has managed to keep her job.

We must continue our work and show the international community that Afghan women have not given up their lives. They continue to fight for their freedom, democracy and to stand up to the Taliban. They are still alive !“, she says in a straightforward voice. 

Before the Taliban, the young woman experienced what she calls “real journalism” in her many reports and refuses to turn away as she and her colleagues “raise the voices of the people who live under constant threat. We feel like activists, in a sense.

Prison for an interview

But her courage is threatened daily. She is terrified every morning to go to her office, being both a woman and a journalist. “One day, while I was reporting with my cameraman on the terrible economic situation of Afghan women, we were brutally interrupted. I was interviewing an ice cream vendor in Kabul when the 8th District Intelligence Department arrived to arrest us. We were imprisoned for four hours, threatened and tortured. They forbade us to do interviews and to give a negative image of the government. We were not allowed to broadcast our work.”

Banafsha Binesh and her cameraman

This was not the only intervention by the Taliban during her working hours, far from it. Binesh testifies that on several occasions the regime interrupted and cut off her live broadcasts, especially when she was interviewing refugees or students outside schools. On that day, “they came and prevented me from talking to the students and girls there, I could only greet them before I had to leave.” She cannot appear on screen without her hijab and mask.

But Banafsha Binesh and her compatriots cannot win this fight alone, she insists on many occasions. “It is the role of the international community to put pressure on the Taliban. It meets them every day in Doha, Qatar, so what is it waiting for to force them to respect women’s rights and freedom of expression? We can no longer go to the parks or the hammam, we can no longer get an education or do cultural activities. We cannot move forward without the international community. Journalists from all over the world must also be able to focus on Afghanistan and the condition of women here, it is our responsibility.”

Getting a foot in the door of journalism

Other journalists have had no choice but to flee the regime and seek refuge in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the situation is not much better for them, as the two Afghans with whom we were able to communicate, who wished to remain anonymous, can testify.

The first of them has been based in Pakistan for 15 months and used to work for Itlat-E-Rooz Daily as an investigative and peace journalist. Wahid Haderi and four members of his family fled their home country in August 2021. He says that in recent months, refugee journalists had arrived on medical and tourist visas. “But without a journalist visa, we cannot work in Pakistan. The country does not issue journalist visa, and for a normal tourist, people should pay $1,000 to brokers, wich is far too much money when we fled with what we have on our backs and no work.”

Wahid Haderi at work

Most journalists who have visas have them for only three or six months and even mine has expired. Pakistan has announced that it is closing the borders and our colleagues have no choice but to cross the border illegally. At the end of the year, they will face three years in prison or deportation to Afghanistan, but what can they do? Many have families to support and they have a better chance of meeting their needs from Pakistan than from Afghanistan.” Risking death on the spot or taking a slim chance elsewhere is what our speaker is saying. He said that international aid was too specific to really help Afghan journalists. 

Some organizations like Amnesty International or the Committee to Protect Journalists provide financial aid, but you have to prove that you are in great danger to get it. Most of them have escaped without any legal documents to save their lives. And even if you manage to get the money, it is never enough to survive for more than a few weeks. And you have to have been tortured or imprisoned, not just threatened. But they all suffer from mental or psychological problems because they are traumatized.” Many still cannot talk about their experiences and their escape.

Wahid Haderi reports on press freedom in Afghanistan

The same sound is heard from our third journalist. He too has fled to Pakistan to escape the death promised by the Taliban, but the country is not safe for journalists. “We feel threatened here too, we can’t criticise the Pakistani government either. Terrorist groups like Daesh and the Taliban themselves have influence and support in Pakistan. We can still be imprisoned by Islamabad for our opinions or as a result of our visa expiring. Many journalists can no longer even rent a flat,” he says. “It’s a nightmare situation.” Although he applied for a visa in France and Germany last February, he has not received any reply.

He confides that he simply expects us “to be heard and to be able to work without being threatened with death or torture.” About 350 journalists and media workers are currently refugees in Pakistan and are asking the international community to take up their asylum cases.

They need to be given an answer as soon as possible, so that they can make a fresh start and have a normal life. They also need to be informed about their cases and visas, which take a long time to be processed in order to get them out of their desperate situation. Their lives are at stake.

These journalists need to be supported by the international community, based on a clear and transparent mechanism, so that their voices can be heard in the country. Journalists in danger in Afghanistan must also be evacuated and their asylum cases examined in an appropriate country.

After all, Afghanistan is not frozen in political immobilism. The fact that the Taliban government has kept its political office in Qatar means that they are willing to negotiate in many cases, they have regular meetings with representatives of the Islamic Emirate’s political bureau and European political sections. These visits have made it clear to the Taliban that their continued political power depends on the acceptance of the basic rights of citizens.

Issues of freedom and human rights, especially freedom of expression, were discussed with the group’s political representatives. And this opened the way for a political conversation, a conversation that led to the creation of a comprehensive government and the end of forty years of violence.

Maud Baheng Daizey and Noorwali Khpalwak