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

War in Afghanistan : one year under the Taliban regime


Last year, on August 15th, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was fall down on the basis of an international and domestic conspiracy and the Taliban ruled the entire country, they (Taliban) had a golden chance to prove themselves that they can represent this great nation and have the knowledge and art to lead the country towards prosperity and stability, but unfortunately only the war is stopped for a short period of time, it is a temporary positive change in the security situation, but the country has gone in a negative direction in all other areas.

The previous republican government:

The result of the withdrawal of the United States and NATO from Afghanistan was heartbreaking, sad and devastating for many Afghans, although the collapse of the previous republican government led and reason to the return of the Taliban, it was corrupt in different parts, but still it was a united government of America and NATO to fight against Islamist extremist groups in Afghanistan and the region, It celebrated and nurtured democratic values ​​and tried to guarantee these values ​​to Afghans, (Although these values ​​were very difficult to implement so quickly and the country should have a full-fledged liberal democracy).

Certainly, the previous system was more valuable than the current successor.

Islamic Emirate of the Taliban:

The Taliban’s one-year rule, especially their treatment of girls and women, shows that the Taliban intends to turn Afghanistan towards extremism based on a narrow view of Islam، and it seems that they will not able to help the country in economic reconstruction., which had signed at the beginning of the withdrawal of foreign forces, it could not be saved.

Ideological agreement and relations with other extremists groups:

Although the Kabul attack that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was a major achievement for the intelligence and counter-terrorism communities, the presence of al-Zawahiri in the country’s capital and within a few kilometers of the presidential-place (Arg) shows that Taliban still willing to provide hiding places to international terrorist groups, the country with a population of nearly 40 million and the West has been helping them for the past 20 years is condemned to humiliation and deprivation.

Human Rights:

On the verge of completing one year of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, the Human Rights Watch Foundation has published a report called “A year full of disasters of the Taliban government”.

It is stated in this report that the terrible actions of the Taliban in the field of human rights and the interaction of this group with the international community have led to their isolation.

In the report of the Human Rights Watch Foundation, it is stated (that the Taliban have violated their promises in the field of human rights since taking over Afghanistan).

According to the report of the Human Rights Watch Foundation, the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on women and the media and have arbitrarily arrested, tortured and executed opponents.

According to this report, since the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, 90 percent of the people of this country are suffering from food insecurity and millions of children have suffered from malnutrition.

One year after the rule of the Taliban, the greatest losses have been inflicted on the women of Afghanistan, thousands of women have lost their jobs, millions of girls have been prevented from going to school, and restrictions have been imposed on their presence in society, and they have been suppressed in the political arena.

During the republic government among the 249 members of the Afghan House of Representatives (Wolosi Jirga), 69 of them were women, and among the 102 representatives in the Senate, almost half of them were women.

In the previous republic government, nearly 5,000 women worked in the ranks of the Afghan Defense Forces.

Women’s teams in various fields such as football, basketball and martial arts had impressive activities in all provinces, now these activities have come to zero and their participation in sports is prohibited under the shadow of the Taliban regime.

With the arrival of the Taliban it has been implemented, preventing women from working, closing schools to female students above the sixth grade, covering the faces of female TV presenters, and imposing other restrictions on women have severely limited the public space for women in Afghanistan.

Human Disaster:

The international aid organization (World vision) in its report which is published on August threatened that the development achievements of the people of Afghanistan, which have been achieved with many problems, are in serious danger, (World Vision) has said that the situation of children in Afghanistan is more dangerous than ever, that some call it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

The report states that this is challenging the ability of families to survive, rapidly deteriorating the public health system and ultimately endangering the rights and protections of Afghan children. 

The UN’s Humanitarian Aid Coordinator (OCHA) says that around 25 million people in Afghanistan are currently living in poverty, and the organization has reported that 900,000 jobs will be out of the labor market this year.

Freedom of speech:

The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York has published a report calling for the release of journalists imprisoned by the Taliban and violence against the media. In this report, it is said that a large number of journalists left the country due to violence and harassment, and due to the restrictions and bad economic situation, a number of newspapers, radio stations and television stations have been shut down. It is stated in this report that Afghanistan had 547 media outlets before August 15 of last year, but a year later, 219 media outlets stopped their activities and 76.19% of 11,857 journalists lost their jobs.

The Reporters Without Borders organization has published a report saying that after the rule of the Taliban, Afghanistan has lost 39.59% of its media and 59.87% of journalists, especially female journalists, and three quarters of them are now unemployed. According to this organization, all this happened amid the deep economic crisis and suppression of press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders Secretary General Christophe Delor said: “Journalism was destroyed in Afghanistan last year.”

He stated: “The media and journalists are subjected to unfair regulations that limit the freedom of the media and open the way for repression and harassment.

This organization has noted that women journalists were the most affected and in 11 provinces of Afghanistan, where there were 2,756 female journalists and media workers, now only 656 are working.

The report states that accusations of “immorality or behavior contrary to society’s values” are widely used as a pretext for harassing female journalists and sending them home.

Health system:

 Johanniter International Assistance has said that Afghanistan’s health system has returned to the situation 20 years ago due to the cessation of international development aid and economic isolation.

Holger Wagner the head of Janitor’s international aid program, said that 70% of people’s primary health care expenses were financed by the international community in the past years, and if it is cut off, employees’ salaries will no longer be paid, medicine and equipment will not be provided, and it will not be possible to provide health facilities.

 “This poor first aid supply is now facing an unprecedentedly dramatic humanitarian situation, especially for children – if they survive – their development will be stunted, with fatal consequences for the country’s future society,” adds Wagner.

Brain Drain:

 Thousands of Afghans were forced to leave their country, The majority of these Afghans are professionals, scholars of contemporary sciences and technology, and elites of Afghanistan.

According to experts of the migration; this great wave of manpower will have extremely destructive effects on the future of Afghanistan.

Abbas Kamund, the former spokesperson of the American Embassy in Kabul said that in the past 21 years of American investments in the field of human capacity development in Afghanistan, “the investments were comprehensive, extensive and very huge, maybe there is no exact figure yet, but estimates are that in the fields of military, economic, political, state building and infrastructure, the expenditures of the United States of America, including military expenditures, reached about two trillion dollars.

However, as a result of the withdrawal of international forces led by the United States from Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 and the rise of the Taliban group, thousands of educated, professional and experienced Afghans were forced to leave Afghanistan.

Taliban Foreign Relations:

Taliban has relations with several countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and China. There are many comments about the Taliban’s relationship with the above countries, especially Pakistan, I will not go there, I will only focus on China-Taliban relation.

China is one of the biggest economic powers in the region and has the capacity to help the Taliban through investment, also the Taliban were very hopeful at the beginning to use China’s influence in their international relations. 


A checkpoint near Karkar mine in Baghlan province was under the attack by IS-K forces at night, it’s says; all the fighters of that checkpoint were killed in this attack, but there is a possibility that these dead fighters were Uyghur who were killed by the Taliban because of their commitment to China, the next night Taliban closed the Baghlan-Kundz highway for almost half a day, and no word of that incident was released to the media.

China is worried about Muslim Uyghurs fighters who can cause rebellion in this country through the common border with Afghanistan and Central Asia, therefore it is eager to have a relationship with the Taliban, this relation is based more to watch the Taliban, China want to be make sure that there is no dangerous for them, and they can follow up the Uyghurs fighters, but whether the Taliban have really taken the actions that China wants against the Uyghurs who oppose China, It is a question?

But; in the latest case, the English section of the Voice of America published the opinion of American analysts and said that China and the Taliban are “disappointed” with each other.  American analysts have considered the reason for China’s disappointment with the Taliban to be the failure to suppress Uyghur extremist groups, which the Taliban have not implemented in the past year despite repeated promises, on the contrary, the Taliban wants economic cooperation and international legitimacy from China.

With the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, the concerns of China, a country that the Taliban had counted on, have increased.

There are many reports that the Turkestan Islamic Movement, whose founders are Uyghur extremists, are based in parts of Baghlan province and are closely cooperating with the Taliban.

The Opium

Terrorism and opium have a synergistic relationship and the main source of financing, equipping and the economic structure of violent groups in the region is this lucrative business.

The Taliban had created a large network of opium trafficking in the region, the Taliban’s opium cultivation, refining and trafficking network starts from the big farmers who are known as the local opium mafia in the regions and reaches the high-ranking military commanders and political-religious leaders of this group.

Opium is considered to be one of the economic sources of financing the war in Afghanistan, which is the main arm of the Taliban’s criminal economy and plays an essential role in political instability.

Past year, Taliban commanders and leaders of this group intensified the process of opium smuggling and production and took it from the hands of local traffickers, before the Taliban’s strategy was that the military commanders cooperated with the help of local traffickers who were not members of the Taliban group, but after the occupation of Afghanistan, the middle-ranking commanders of the Taliban also limited the hands of non-Taliban traffickers and took over the circulation of opium from cultivation to trafficking, a large part of them who were engaged in war are now engaged in the cultivation and trafficking of drugs, which is very profitable.

The New York Times has reported that Molavi Yaqoub, the Minister of Defense of Taliban during his trip to Doha asked the Americans to release Bashir Noorzai, a well-known smuggler and financial supporter of the Taliban.


 Amir Khan Motaqi, Taliban’s foreign minister, said at the Tashkent meeting earlier this month that 1,800 IS-K fighters were released from Bagram and Pulcherkhi prisons when the Taliban captured Kabul.

On Thursday, 11 August the news website of the ISIS group (Amaq) claimed responsibility for the killing of Maulvi Rahimullah Haqqani, one of the senior members of the Haqqani network, by publishing a newsletter.

In this newsletter, it is said that the suicide attacker of this group bypassed all the security fortifications, reached Rahimullah Haqqani’s school and detonated his suicide vest.

ISIS has claimed that including this senior member of the Taliban group, several others were also killed in this attack.

Rahimullah Haqqani, a member of the Haqqani network, was active in Pakistan before the Taliban took over Afghanistan and ran a religious school in Peshawar, after the collapse of the Afghan government, he moved his school to Kabul.

Many members of the Taliban, including the commanders and leaders of this group, are students of Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani School, which was active in Peshawar for the past 20 years.

This shows that the Taliban has failed to control IS-K attacks that have been carried out several times in the past one year, However, control of such attacks requires a network and advanced information tools, which Taliban do not have both.

In the early days of Taliban rule over Afghanistan, IS-K carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in Kabul airport during the evacuation process, in which more than 200 people, including American forces, were killed and wounded, In another IS-K attack on a mosque in Kunduz, more than 50 Shia worshipers were killed and wounded, a week after the attack on Kunduz, the bloodiest terrorist attack took place in Kandahar, as a result of which about 40 people were killed and more than 70 people were injured, after that, IS-K planned and executed other bloody attacks in Mazar-i-Sharif and west of Kabul, On the 7th and 8th of Muharram, this group killed more than 90 people in Kabul.


The findings of a new survey about the situation in Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban show that 92 percent of the interviewees are completely dissatisfied with the actions of the Taliban and only 8 percent of the people asked for the continuation of the Taliban’s actions.

This survey was conducted by the Afghanistan Institute of Strategic Research and Studies in 20 provinces of the country, and the questions were answered by 2000 interviewees who were between 18 and 40 years old. 64 percent of the interviewees are men and 36 percent are women.

If the Taliban still can’t wake up from the sleep of neglect and think that they can govern by what they are thinking, then this is a very difficult task. The above shortcomings should be rationally thought about. There is still time to move together with the 20th century.  And the fundamental rights of the people of Afghanistan can be restored. If they want to be recognized by the world, then it is very important that legitimacy should be taken from the nation first. International legitimacy will come automatically, even now from the world and from the opponents at home.  To really open the doors of dialogue and commit to building a system that is representative of all political and ethnic currents and human rights of Afghans can be given.

Warning to the international community:

 Famous American Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday, August 16 (Zamri 25) that there is a possibility of another attack from Afghanistan on America and America’s allies, the source of which would be Afghanistan.

 Mr. Graham added in a statement that America has not ended any war but has started another war because President Biden made a hasty decision.

Graham explained, the conditions in Afghanistan are terrible and all the work that was done in the last 20 years has been displaced because now the training camps that were in that country before September 11th are being rebuilt.

* Availability of American weapons worth billions of dollars with the Taliban:

 The American Ministry of Defense or the Pentagon has said in recent statements that weapons and ammunition worth about 7 billion dollars have been left in this country while leaving Afghanistan.  The source says that these weapons and ammunition also include cars, tanks and airplanes.  American officials say that more than 300,000 guns and other handguns have been left from the former government to the current government. Considering that this is a fragile situation, it is necessary to help the people of Afghanistan on the one hand through human sympathy and on the other hand to take necessary steps to prevent any danger facing the world.  Forty years, nations are tired of fighting and no longer want to present the war as a solution. America and the world can convince the Taliban to guarantee the basic rights of the people of Afghanistan through the countries that support the Taliban and on the basis of soft pressure.  It should be done through legitimate and democratic means.

On the basis of soft pressure, the Taliban have been convinced that the basic rights of the people of Afghanistan are guaranteed and that the coming to power is done through legitimate and democratic means.

Written by Noorwali Khpalwak 21/08/2022, Paris

IRAQ. Abduction and disappearance: Powerful weapons to intimidate protests activists

On February 22, 2020, at around 8 p.m., the young protester “Muhammad Ali” (a pseudonym) was waiting alone near Kahramana square in central Baghdad, for a taxi to take him to New Baghdad in the south-east of the capital, where he will continue his way home on Palestine Street, but the vehicle he took moved him to another world that changed his life forever.


  •  Ahmed Hasan, Iraqi journalist resident at the MDJ (Maison des journalistes). Translated by Walaa Rayya

The cold and the darkness surrounded the place near the Chevrolet Car Company office, which is about several kilometers from Tahrir Square, the center of the popular protests when a white Kia car with four passengers in it stopped, they were unsuspicious. Muhammad slipped in it quickly as he exchanged greetings with them before silence prevailed.

A few minutes later, the car changed its way and was headed towards Abu Nawas Street on the Tigris River, when one of the passengers pointed his gun with a silencer placed under his jacket at Muhammad and said “Shut up if you want to live.” With these words, his kidnapping journey had begun and ended with a troubled life, isolation, paranoia, and great fear.

Muhammad (23 years) has been unemployed and was seeking work since graduating from the University of Baghdad’s Faculty of Political Science in the summer of 2019. Amid the wave of protests demanding reform in October 2019, he quickly became involved in supporting the protest movement and contributed to the establishment of the student sit-in tents on Saadoun Street leading to Tahrir Square. For months, he has worked passionately in fundraising to provide essential supplies of food, bedding, medicines, and face masks against deadly gas bombs.

“Hopes of ending corruption and reforming the political system were filling his soul before it all ended the moment he rode that white car that carried darkness into his world and turned his dreams into nightmares,” mentions one of his friends.

In early February 2020, after only four months of protests, the National Centre for Human Rights in Iraq reported the abduction of 72 people (22 of them was released.) , as well as 49 assassination attempts of 22 activists, journalists and bloggers. But the numbers escalated in the subsequent months.

Fadel al-Graoui, an OHCHR member, revealed, in early June 2021, what he termed the “numbers of missing persons,” and he said that all but 18 of the 76 disappeared persons have been identified.

Death alleys

With successive crackdowns of repression along with arrests and kidnappings, activists preferred not to ride in a car in areas near Al Tahrir Square that were known as “death alleys” and were turned into sites for masked gunmen who made it a field of abduction and murder away from the eyes of security agents and protesters.

Abbas, a twenty years old brown man and Tuk-tuk car owner, who for months has been transporting protesters from the protest center “Al Tahrir “ to the Kahramana square, says: “It was a necessary step for protection against targeting in Al Tahrir square, but armed groups linked to the power parties, for which the demonstrations were considered a danger, began to kidnap activists from Kahramana after tracking them carefully.”

During November and December 2019, at least 103 attempted killings and abductions took place in the streets of Al-Saadoun, Al-Nidal, and Abu Nawas, according to the testimony of 10 groups’ leaders, as well as the testimony of security agents of the Establishment Protection Service, which is responsible for inspecting those entering Tahrir Square.

For almost a year, the protesters, who were thousands in Tahrir Square or gathering around it, used to watch the death and fall of their comrades with live bullets, gas canisters, and sniping weapons. According to government numbers, more than 560 people were killed and over 20,000 were injured.

Identical abduction tales

On the night that Muhammad was kidnapped, Abbas had taken him on his bike with two of his companions (Wael and Maysara). In Kahramana, the three friends broke up, and Muhammad was alone for minutes, using his cell phone and waiting for a car to pick him up. Armed groups would have preferred “to hunt activists alone to facilitate their kidnapping with no witnesses,” Abbas says.

A year after his kidnapping, in a small room in the family home, Muhammad agreed to receive us with his father and sister and several preconditions: “No cameras, no phones, no recording devices.”

The young man kept looking at us for minutes as he tried to figure out our intentions while his father was talking about the difficult days they lived through then he said: ” That night they took me to an abandoned orchard in the Dawra area south of Baghdad, just near the oil refinery. They acted quietly, pulled my phone, and they did not blindfold me to pass through security checkpoints normally. At one checkpoint, they said they were affiliated with the National Security Service.”

“On the way, they told me that they were from the demonstrations room and they wanted to verify the sources of the funds that I collected to support the demonstrations, but after passing the presidential brigade checkpoint, at the exit of the “AL Tabikayen” bridge overlooking the presidential district, and before passing a crossroads leading to “Al-Zaafaraniya” and “ the new Baghdad”, they entered a dirt road that included a checkpoint in which two agents in military clothes stood next to a Toyota pickup, on which the flag of the Popular Mobilization was raised. The barrier was rapidly removed and the car was allowed to pass. After a few minutes, that seemed to me very long I was immersed in thinking about the fate that expected me. We ended up in an orchard.”

Muhammad says: “When we got there, the kidnappers beat me, and one of them grabbed my shirt and pulled me out of the car hard and I fell to the ground. There were four people with beards waiting for me while they were carrying batons. I woke up late at night and found myself locked in a small, windowless room with a filthy bathroom. The room was completely isolated, and I didn’t know when it was morning or night. The hours passed by slowly, interspersed with brief sessions of repeated questions, insults, and physical torture committed by men in their late thirties, all dressed in yellow shirts and green pants.”

Death threat, ransom, and conditional release

After eight days and no news about him, the security services that Muhammad’s family contacted had the same answer “Your son is not detained by us.” Muhammad’s father, who works as a government employee, received a message from the kidnappers via the Telegram application asking him to sign a white paper to prevent his son from participating in student sit-ins and collecting donations in exchange for his release and to not disclose to anyone any information about what he was exposed to.

Several days later, Muhammad came out, after a complicated release mechanism, which included the intervention of a Shiite cleric who lives in the Zaafaraniyah area, and act as a mediator between the families of the victims and the kidnappers and he received thousands of dollars in each operation.

We looked at the messages exchanged between Muhammad’s father and the mediator, in addition to voice calls and photos of the kidnapper with signs of torture on all parts of his body up to his face. The mediator received five thousand dollars in two payments. “Thank God my son survived and returned, but he became introverted. For weeks after his return, he refused to meet his friends and even his brothers.” Muhammad’s father says.

The protests stopped, but the kidnappings didn’t

At the peak of the demonstrations between October 2019 and January 2020, hundreds of activists were subjected to arrest, kidnapping and torture, and these attempts continued after the protests declined and stopped in some areas with the formation of the new government. Jaafar al-Khasib (a pseudonym), is one of the Basra activists, who preferred to change his name to avoid tracking him. In October 2020, he fled to Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan Province and went to Turkey after a kidnapping attempt in central Basra, where he nearly lost his life.

The activist tells us the details of the kidnapping attempt: “It was in mid-September 2020, on Algeria Street, minutes after I left the house and while I was passing near a parked white Toyota pickup, I was surprised by a loud sound from its engine, I turned and saw someone pointing his gun at me. I was standing in front of one of the shops. Scared and without thinking, I entered the place screaming and jostling with the employees in it, while the sound of gunfire went up.”

“I was lucky because the shop had a back door overlooking a public street that I came out of and I went to a garage next door. I begged people to help me, one of them directed me into the bathrooms, I stayed there for about a quarter of an hour, I was almost paralyzed, and I didn’t know what to do, the death was stalking me. They told me then that the gunmen had fled after one of the workers had been shot in the left leg.” The activist says.

The group that chased Al-Khasib was composed of three persons. They were planning to kidnap him, not kill him.

Hours after the incident, the local police inspected the place and the home of al-Khasib family and conducted a formal investigation after the owner of the shop reported the incident. The activist submitted his statement to the investigating officer who blamed him for his participation in organizing the demonstrations and held him responsible for what happened.

“He also said that my family was suffering because of me, and he told me clearly that the police could not protect me and it will best for me to leave Basra quickly. Then he whispered in my ear a name of a well-known figure in Basra who has been pursuing activists and protesters.” He explains.

Homicide for treason

Throughout the months of documenting the kidnappings, activists informed us that between September and October 2020, many of them received information about the “intentions” of a specific group to execute activists in the demonstrations and that they had “fatwas” legalizing the murder of “traitors” working for America, Britain and the Gulf countries.

In the same period, journalists received information from security parties close to the Prime Minister’s office, that there is a list of about 70 names of journalists and activists threatened with death by armed groups close to the parties in power. The charges are “communicating with countries hostile to the resistance factions”.

Security services, which were unable to protect protesters from armed factions, “believe that the protests are a conspiracy to threaten their existence.” It seems that they preferred not to be a partner in the crime, so they leaked the names of activists and journalists who are threatened with kidnapping or murder.”

This information was leaked days after four of Basra’s most prominent activists were subjected to assassination attempts, Reham Yaqoub (she was murdered on August 19) and “Tahseen al-Shahmani” (he was murdered on August 14), while both Ludia Raymond and Abbas Subhi managed to escape.

291 assassination attempts

The kidnappings and assassinations that took place after the “October Movement” 2019 were not limited to Baghdad and Basra, but also included nine provinces, according to a document that mentioned the names and dates of the assassinations and showed that most of the operations took place between four o’clock and eleven in the evening and were carried out with a variety of machine guns, including silencer weapons.

n officer in the National Security Service who was contacted several times before agreeing to meet with us in a cafe in central Baghdad, said, on the condition that he not be identified, that the assassinations took place based on “an organized action carried out by an armed group that was operating under the watchful eye of the Ministry of Interior and with the support of Shiite political parties.”

The document counted 291 attempted murders directly or after the abduction, as a result, 80 activists and demonstrators were dead, 122 others were injured, and 89 survived without injury, in Baghdad, Babylon, Karbala, Najaf, Diwaniya, Muthanna, Nasiriyah, Missan, and Basra.

The special room

The officer reveals a “Protest Suppression Chamber” was formed under the chairmanship of Interior Minister Yassin Elyasri: “When the demonstrations intensified, they formed the Chamber to confront it, for them the demonstrations were an organized and funded operation to target the authority and the influential parties that have armed groups.”

He states further: “Its meetings included representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the Intelligence Service, officers in the National Security, the Popular Mobilization Forces, and influential actors of the partie.”

The officer in the National Security identified the party concerned with suppressing the demonstrators and prosecuting the activists: “We knew that there was a special operations room called the “Dealing with the Demonstrations” room. It seems that elements of it were planted within the riot police, and they were the ones who were throwing live bullets and tear gas bombs to kill and intimidate the demonstrators.”

This information intersects with statements by Yahya Rasoul, spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, about the involvement of elements of the Ministry of the Interior (the Forces of Order and Riot Control), in using live bullets and tear gas to kill demonstrators. He accused the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi of these crimes.

Nasiriyah: From a protest center to a kidnapping square

For more than a year, Nasiriyah remained the center of the largest protests in southern Iraq. Kidnapping and assassination attempts were taking place in it to force the participants to withdraw from it.

Activist Ali Mehdi Ajil, who was subjected to two assassination attempts, the first one was on 28 November 2020, says “I was driving to the town police station in Nasiriyah to release the protesters who were arrested following clashes as a result of the burning of sit-in tents in Al – Habubi Square. On Prophet Ibrahim Street, I saw a large motorcycle following me with three hooded men on board. I quickly headed to the hall intersection. I knew the bike was chasing me.

A few days earlier, masked men on a motorbike fired three bullets, also on Nabi Ibrahim Street, one of which hit the windshield of his car.

Ajil, who survived the two attempts, ruled out the involvement of the Sadrist movement’s “Saraya Al-Salam” in the attempts. He believed that an armed political party affected by the demonstrations “sought to take advantage of the dispute between the demonstrators and Saraya Al-Salam and carried out a campaign of assassinations to sow discord and push the demonstrators to accuse the Sadrists who attacked the sit-in square and burned the tents after Al-Sadr called for an end to the sit-ins.”

The story of disappeared Sajjad

About months after the spread of the Coronavirus, which affected the momentum of the demonstrations, but did not end the sit-ins in Baghdad and Nazareth in particular, and the formation of the new government, the demonstrations ended.

On September 19, 2020, the young activist Sajjad Al-Iraqi was kidnapped in Nasiriyah, and his fate is still unknown.

Hajji Basem Falih, who was with the Iraqi during the kidnapping attempt and became a witness to the operation, said: “We were five persons in the car, heading to visit a friend who was injured in the protests. We discovered that two cars were chasing us, so we stopped. Four armed men wearing masks got out and asked us to remain silent and not move And they asked Sajjad to come down and go with them.”

In a quick quarrel that happened during the kidnapping attempt, the witness recognized one of the kidnappers by his voice, Idris Al-Ibrahimi.

According to Hajji Basem, Idris Al-Ibrahimi is an important figure who belongs to the Badr Organization led by Hadi Al-Amiri. He is a Dhi Qar Governorate resident and works as an employee of the Prisoners and Martyrs Foundation. He was formerly a prominent fighter in the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The witness called Idris Al-Ibrahimi for help, by his nickname: “Haji Abu Zahraa, please leave Sajjad.”

That did not work, and Ibrahimi became irritated and told the witness to remain silent, he broke the side window of the car with his pistol, while another gunman, who was carrying a pistol with a silencer, forcibly dragged Sajjad from the back seat and put him in the kidnappers’ car before returning and shooting Hajji Bassem because he identified Ibrahimi, but he miraculously survived after being transferred to Nasiriyah Hospital for treatment for a severe injury.

The incident sparked a wave of outrage among activists and forced the government to force the Counter-terrorism Service to search for Sajjad, to release him, and arrest the kidnappers after unsuccessful attempts to communicate with parties to which the kidnappers belong, but it completely failed and Sajjad remained disappeared, while the security services kept secret the identities of the kidnappers and the details of the operation.

Sajjad’s mother says that she knows the actors involved in the kidnapping of her son, and they are affiliated with an influential party: “There is no investigation. The case has been neglected and put on hold, so there is nothing new and the security services did not inform us of anything. Rather, we are the ones who provide them with information. The kidnappers names are recognized. Four witnesses have conclusive evidence that a person was involved in snitching on Sajjad and he has disappeared after the incident.”

Nine months after the incident and dozens of promises made to Sajjad’s mother by senior officials, the mother does not hide her despair of knowing the fate of her son, “I don’t know if he is dead or alive, nothing is more difficult than that.”

Endless wait

For nearly a year, activists have been waiting for the results of a fact-finding committee to uncover those involved in the killing and kidnapping of protesters, and the investigation committees that were formed after each operation did not identify the persons or parties involved. It’s an endless waiting to forget the causes, as activists see.

With the silence of the government, voices emerged among protesters pointing fingers directly at power parties and armed factions associated with the Popular Mobilization Forces. They note that factional media – specifically Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaeb Ahl Hak – shared statements, comments, and writings that attacked the protests and questioned activists’ motives, accusing them of employment, treason and receiving money from abroad.

Stalking Activists’ Families

Many activist homes have been attacked with firearms and sound packets, like the house of activist Hussein Al – Ghrabi in Dhi Qar, while other have received threatening messages through their phones or contact with their relatives.

Activist Ali Mahdi Ajeel confirms that the armed groups do not hesitate to do anything to stop the protests. “They hung a hanging and bloodied baby doll on the door of my house. It was a clear message that they know me, they know my house and the children, and they can kill anyone if I don’t withdraw.”

Malik al-Tayeb, whose brother, a prominent activist in Diwaniyah, Thaer al-Tayeb, was assassinated in mid-December 2019, says: “A while ago, while I was my car returning from work, near Al-Hussein Hospital, a motorcycle driven by a masked person followed me and he asked me to stop. He asked me to drop the lawsuit about revealing my brother’s killers because that’s a enormous risk to my life. He said his words and sped off. I tried tracking him down, but he went into the narrow alleyways and disappeared. ”

Will the killers be held accountable?

Even after the arrest of several members of the “death gang” in Basra accused of carrying out a series of killings, including the assassination of journalist Ahmed Abd Al-Samad and his colleague, the photographer Safa Ghali in January 2020, prominent activists question the accountability of those involved and believe that impunity will continue to prevail.

But a member of the Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee and representative of Basra, Bader Al-Ziyadi, shows some hope, and sees that the arrests of some members of the “death gang” as “a message of reassurance to the people of Basra that the security services can arrest the criminals, even after a while.”

He didn’t hide the fact that some security commanders requested to move the accused from Basra to Baghdad “so that there will be no pressure on the security services and no change of testimony under any internal influence or outside interference”.

Al-Ziyadi, who expressed his hope that the investigations will show “more and greater results about the motives behind these assassinations, and the nature of their members’ affiliations,” says that “the Parliamentary Security Committee will open the file and obtain accurate information from the security services to solve the murders”.

Yahya Rasoul asked to give chance to the intelligence effort to complete the investigations.

The head of the Supreme Judicial Council and Al-Kazemi’s office also rejected the claim of Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s government that there was a “third party” involved: “This is fake information and has nothing to do with the truth. There are two parties, the security forces, and the demonstrators.”

In November 2019, the former Defense Minister, Najah Al-Shammari, announced the presence of a third party accused of killing protesters.

“We are fighting a losing battle”

Under a powerless government that has been infiltrated by political groups with armed wings, Tishreen movement activists are almost unanimous in the impossibility of holding those involved in the kidnappings and assassinations accountable, and they doubt that the results will lead to effective detentions and trials and they mentioned the failure of the agencies to arrest suspects living in Iraq, and others will get out and this will be justified by the absence of evidence.

A renowned journalist in Basra, who refused to answer our questions many times, before accepting on condition that nothing indicating his identity be revealed: “We do not speak because we fear death, we do not trust the security services, they are infiltrated and helpless, and the militias have the final say. They arrested a few people here who are just tools while all the Basra agencies were unable to arrest the head of the group who was present in Basra. . And who says that these persons will be tried, there is pressure, and we may wake up one day and hear about their release due to insufficient evidence or their escape! We are in a losing battle.”

The despair over the possibility of achieving change through the elections and holding the perpetrators accountable pushed the “National House”, one of the forces emanating from the Tishreen movement, to announce its withdrawal, along with other Tishreen forces, from participating in the elections. Hussein Al-Ghurabi, one of the founders of “National House”, says: “It is useless under the government’s inability in front of the power of the militias and their weapons… How can I compete with them while they have all the cards in their hands?”

Abdul Qahar al-Samarrai, a member of Parliament, agrees with activists’ opinions on the government’s failure to identify the culprits: “Replacing Abdul-Mahdi’s government with this government was useless.”

He adds: “what the demonstrators were hoping for was not done by this government, so they are more resentful today than yesterday… and the forces that operate outside the state are increasing the street tension.”

He further states that “restoring confidence to the angry people comes from revealing the identities of the criminals, and this is a priority for the government, otherwise it will be described as its predecessors.”

The disappeared son and the murdered father

On March 10, 2021, Jaseb Hattab Al-Heliji,  father of the kidnapped lawyer Ali Jasp, was assassinated in the city of Amar, Missan province, hours after his participation in the commemoration ceremony of the murder of t Abdul Quddus Qassem, a prominent activist in Missan.

Jaseb is an old man known for his participation in the March protests and his activity on social media, after the kidnapping of his son, who was a lawyer and a civic activist, on October 8, 2019, in front of the Al Rawi Mosque in central Amara. Since then, he has been disappeared.

According to a relative of Jaseb, he was killed in Al-Amara, Al-Fiqa’i Al-Khaid, after he paid his respect to the Abd Al-Kuddus family.

Hours later, the police announced that they had arrested the culprit, “Hussein Abbas,” and that the motive was a clan dispute. Meanwhile, the Supreme Judicial Council reported that “the accused stated in his confessions that the victim (who is his uncle’s husband) was accusing him of kidnapping his son, which led to disputes and he filed a complaint against him. The pressures he was subjected to prompt him to kill the victim.”

However, the Jaseb family seemed unconvinced and demanded to reveal the identity of the entity who pushed the perpetrator to commit the murder and the one behind the abduction of their son Ali.

For about a year and a half, Jaseb has been trying to raise the disappearance issue, he participated in protests, raised a picture of his kidnapped son and his orphaned grandchildren, and demanded to reveal the fate of his son.

“Despite evidence in telephone calls and text messages, persons accused of kidnapping have been called as witnesses, not as defendants,” said Jaseb in a video.

Jaseb’s wait to know the fate of his gone son ended with his death, but his two grandchildren will grow up in a circle of waiting and revenge without a father or grandfather, while Sajjad’s mother will burn her remaining days between the pain of losing him and the hope of seeing him. She says: “I want to know his fate, whether he is alive or dead. His burial place. We do not deserve all this torment.”

Ahmed Hassan. © Karzan Hameed. 2021.

Ahmed Hassan © Karzan Hameed. 2021.

Ahmed Hassan, journaliste irakien résident de la MDJ

Contact : ahm_198950@yahoo.com

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