I know there’s a lot going on in Hollywood right now, but to me the most vital and urgent news is unfolding in Afghanistan, where women and journalists are under siege, fighting for their rights and their lives with the Taliban again ruling the nation.
In the immediate aftermath of the extremists reclaiming the capital of Kabul on Aug. 15, I watched a chilling video on Twitter where images of women on the window of a beauty salon in the city were being whitewashed with spray paint. The caption eerily summed up what is literally going on right now: “Women getting erased from the streets of Kabul.” In fact, public images of women are being painted over in many parts of the country, as our writer Rebecca Davis noted in her recent post about Afghan female directors fearing the end of filmmaking under the Taliban.
Davis quoted documentarian Sahra Mani, saying, “We are just a few female filmmakers in Afghanistan, maybe 10, so they can easily find us, kill us, get rid of us — even in just one hour.”
Mani noted that some artists are avoiding sleeping in their own homes, which they believe are being targeted by the militants. “There are just two options now if you think differently, or are an intellectual, filmmaker or artist — you leave the country or the Taliban comes and kills you.”
There is dire concern that the freedoms that women have been enjoying, and all progress that has been made on the cultural front since the Taliban’s first reign of power ended in 2001, are now in grave jeopardy. And those who might believe militant leaders’ assurances that women would have the right to work and education, or that they would allow for a free press, are simply deluding themselves. Certainly, major U.S. media outlets in the region are taking the threat seriously, with many, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, having shut their news bureaus and evacuated reporters to protect them from being in danger.
In his story last week, Variety’s senior TV editor Brian Steinberg predicted, “It’s clear that the Taliban intend to ban free press, just like they did when they were last in power between 1996 and 2001.” Steinberg quoted Audrey Azoulay, head of the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, who urged the Taliban to protect the safety of journalists and their freedom of expression.
“At this critical time, no one should be afraid to speak their mind, and the safety of all journalists, especially women, must be especially guaranteed,” she said.
If only that guarantee could be guaranteed. My prayers are with all the women and journalists who are in harm’s way. May they remain safe and sound.