Named one of Time magazine’s “Women of the Year,” Afghan journalist Zahra Joya says she is determined to keep reporting on women’s issues in Afghanistan.
The 29-year-old founder of Rukhshana Media, an news agency run by and for women in Afghanistan, had to flee her country last year when the Taliban seized power.
Now based in Britain, Joya runs her media outlet in exile, publishing the work of women still in Afghanistan who report about life under Taliban rule. It’s a task that brings threats to her and her staff.
In an interview with VOA Pashto Managing Editor Shaista Lami, Joya said she was determined to keep reporting on the plight of Afghan women.
“It is extremely important for the world not to forget Afghan women now, at the time of their sufferance, and support them in their (fight) for their basic rights and press freedom in Afghanistan,” Joya said.
This interview has been translated and edited for length and clarity.
How does it feel to be named a Time magazine woman of the year, and how has your life changed since the Taliban takeover?
I am happy that my name appears at this crucial time for the women of my country, at a time when they face many difficulties and restrictions.
What did I do in the last six months? I did everything I could through our media outlet Rukhshana.
For 10 years I have covered women’s issues in Afghanistan.
And I still continuously put my efforts together with the women who are out protesting. I did not give in to fear of the Taliban and have covered every gathering, every conference and every protest (these women) held in the streets of Kabul.
A large number of female journalists have left their jobs or the country for fear of Taliban punishment. How are you helping those still in Afghanistan from outside the country?
The Taliban imposed many restrictions on women and journalists. Many left the country and many more lost their jobs.
We know this is a hard time for Afghan women. However, I continue my work from here in Britain.
I am leading Rukhshana from here, which is not an easy task. I am worried about my co-workers, and we are faced with countless restrictions. I feel sad, especially when I see so many serious issues to cover.
I am still hopeful that we can endure the pressure, continue our fight for Afghan women and raise their voices.
How do you connect with women still in Afghanistan?
We receive many stories, especially now that women are desperate for help and support.
A woman whose house was searched said Taliban were holding (her) and saying, “You took a video of house-to-house Taliban searches.” They searched her phone, deleted videos and harassed her father.
We continue to hear these stories on daily basis, unfortunately. (These women) have lost hope and think the future is nothing but dark for them.
So I continue my efforts as a journalist, to listen to their stories and to raise their voices.
This story originated in VOA’s Pashto Service.