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Afghan Journalists Are Worried About The Return Of The Taliban


As we've just heard, people in Kabul are concerned about the Taliban's return to power, and this includes Afghan journalists, many of whom have been targeted and killed in Taliban attacks over the years. We spoke with journalist Zubair Babakarkhail earlier, who called us from the Afghan capital.

What have the last four days since the Taliban took control of Kabul, what have they been like for you and your family?

ZUBAIR BABAKARKHAIL: Yeah. Life has changed so much. There was so much panicking. To be honest, I was emotional a few times, sometimes watching the Taliban fighters using American-provided Humvees and vehicles to the Afghan government that they were using. So I was so sad. And I spent these days panicking. And the last four days, for me, it seems like a very long time.

MARTÍNEZ: You've been a journalist in Afghanistan for 17 years, including for Stars and Stripes. It's a Department of Defense publication. Are you worried that you might be labeled as being in league with the United States, where that might put you in danger and your family?

BABAKARKHAIL: Yes. Yes. Definitely. Definitely. I'm really worried because I have worked with U.S., DOD-funded publication for so long, about 10 years. And definitely, I'm worried. That's why I'm doing my work while I'm hiding at home. Yesterday, there was a press conference of Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman. My - like, other journalists showed up at the press conference. But I tried to avoid it because I don't want to be everywhere and roam everywhere

MARTÍNEZ: What do Afghans need from the United States and its allies right now?

BABAKARKHAIL: I mean, they are hopeless right now. Everyone is watching the news. And everyone is saying, it's done. There is no one to help the Afghans anymore because, like, the strong support that they had from the United States of America and the international community - all the countries have spent a lot of money in Afghanistan. They have supported Afghans a lot. We have started from zero. And now it's - Afghanistan has changed a lot when it comes to development and rebuilding, and when it comes to education, health and road infrastructure. A lot of things have been constructed. But when we saw that our army and the police ran away like that, I don't think none of the countries, including the U.S., will try to get involved in Afghanistan. So that's why I'm saying Afghans are hopeless. They just want, I think, these days, those who want to flee the country, they are trying their best to flee the country. And that's what they want, mostly.

MARTÍNEZ: If you wind up staying in Afghanistan, Zubair, how do you see yourself fitting into a brand-new, Taliban-led Afghanistan?

BABAKARKHAIL: I see myself facing some problems because once they have a government and for - specific people are responsible for specific areas, I believe they will go house to house, door to door and asking people who they are. I believe even if the government - Taliban government say there is free speech in Afghanistan and media can work, but the local, like, fighters will be - when you are interacting with them on a daily basis, they will call you with different names that - because of my background. I believe that. So I see myself not being happy anymore here. I will have problems.

MARTÍNEZ: Zubair, thank you very much. And please stay safe.

BABAKARKHAIL: You're most welcome.

MARTÍNEZ: Zubair Babakarkhail is a journalist based in Kabul.


A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Lisa Weiner is a line producer on Morning Edition. For NPR, she's covered the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and traveled to Ukraine to cover the Russian invasion in 2022. Prior to joining NPR, she held positions as an editor at WTOP-FM, as an engineer at Radio Free Asia and recorded audio books for the Library of Congress. Weiner has a master's degree in audio technology from American University. She got her start in radio working the late-night shift as a student DJ in the basement of WRUR-FM at the University of Rochester. Weiner has lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Budapest, Hungary.