Afghan journalist fights for female “heroes” from exile

  • The activist fled after coming under pressure from the Taliban
  • Fawzia Saidzada wants to keep fighting for her country
  • Planned to ask German MPs: “Why did you leave us alone?”
  • Says Afghan women remain hopeful after decades of war

BERLIN, Aug 26 (Reuters) – When the Taliban came to arrest her and her brother in October, Fawzia Saidzada, an Afghan journalist and women’s rights activist, finally decided it was time to flee.

The 30-year-old managed to get out the next day after promising the Taliban she would inform other journalists and activists – which she never did. Her brother was detained for 15 days.

“When the Taliban came to power, we decided to fight the Taliban,” said Saidzada, who is single-handedly raising a 13-year-old son. “Our slogan was ‘It’s either freedom or death’.”

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But the episode taught her that she needed to continue her fight for the rights of girls and women from abroad. She arrived in Berlin six weeks ago with her son, her mother, two brothers and a brother’s family.

“Afghan women are heroes,” she told Reuters TV. “Afghan women are brave, they are combatants who have faced war for the past four decades but have not lost hope.”

Saidzada is one of thousands of Afghans who have settled in Germany since US President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of US-led forces that have supported the government in Kabul for decades.

Within days, the Taliban had regained control after fighting a 20-year insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of civilians. Since then they have curtailed the rights of women and girls.

Until the fall of Kabul, Saidzada was a prototype of the new Afghanistan’s free woman. She first studied law, then journalism, before working as a journalist and commentator and leading a human rights organization.

The UN mission in Afghanistan says the Taliban are curbing dissent by arresting journalists, activists and protesters.

The Taliban government, whose top leaders are on US wanted lists for alleged links to terrorism, has vowed to respect people’s rights according to its interpretation of Islamic law and said it will investigate alleged abuses.

In Germany, Saidzada said she wants to set up an aid organization specifically for young people in Afghanistan and maintains contacts with human rights defenders, activists and former soldiers in her homeland. And she wants to complete her Masters in International Relations.

But the battle will be long as the Taliban, she says, have brought Islamist militants into Afghanistan from around the world and driven qualified doctors, lawyers and journalists from their jobs.

Even as she rushes to learn German and settle in, Saidzada makes great accusations against a country that, in alliance with the United States, first promised to save Afghanistan and then abandoned it. One day she wants to speak before the German Bundestag, she said.

“Why did you leave us alone?” Saidzada said she would ask lawmakers.

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Editing by Thomas Escritt, William Maclean

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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