• January 28, 2023

Wave Of Targeted Killings Has Afghans Increasingly On Edge : NPR

Journalist Fatima Roshanian reduced her movements after finding her name on three different lists circulated on Afghan social media, claiming to be from people who want to kill the Taliban. Kiana Hayeri hiding caption for NPR

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Kiana Hayeri for NPR

Journalist Fatima Roshanian reduced her movements after finding her name on three different lists circulated on Afghan social media, claiming to be from people who want to kill the Taliban.

Kiana Hayeri for NPR

KABUL, Afghanistan – It’s not the risk of getting COVID-19 that journalist Fatima Roshanian is keeping at home. It’s the murders.

Roshanian reduced her movements after finding her name on three different lists circulated on Afghan social media, claiming to be from people who want to kill the Taliban. She’s number 11 on a list.

“They are after people who are known, who are against the values ​​of this society and who speak out,” she says.

It’s not the first time Roshanian has been threatened. She has insulted many conservatives in her life as the editor of an Afghan feminist magazine, Nimrokh. It covers topics like sex, virginity, periods, marital affairs – all shocking by Afghan standards. But this time, she says, she takes the threats more seriously because “journalists and other people are killed every day all over the street, in their homes, in the bazaars”.

Roshanian is working with Allahdad Dadgar, a freelance graphic designer, to package her special edition for International Women’s Day in the office in Nimrokh, a two bedroom apartment above a supermarket in Kabul. Kiana Hayeri hiding caption for NPR

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Kiana Hayeri for NPR

Roshanian is working with Allahdad Dadgar, a freelance graphic designer, to package her special edition for International Women’s Day in the office in Nimrokh, a two bedroom apartment above a supermarket in Kabul.

Kiana Hayeri for NPR

In the past six months, shadowy assassins have murdered influential and prominent Afghans, including journalists, human rights defenders, law enforcement officers, doctors and clergy. The killings escalated last September when peace talks began between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

It should have been a time marked by hope. Instead, the United Nations said in a February report that more than 700 people was murdered in targeted murders in 2020. More than 540 were wounded. The United Nations found that the number of civilian casualties increased by 45% compared to 2019. So far this year more than 60 people have been the victims of targeted murders. This comes from an NPR list of incidents reported by an Afghan violence monitoring website.

“It was unprecedented,” said Shaharzad Akbar, chairman of the independent human rights commission in Afghanistan. She says she has never seen anything like the scale of these attacks, “in terms of how many people have been killed in a short period of time and how it has not stopped”.

The killed belong Faiz Mohammad Fayez, on Religious scholar and university professor who was shot dead earlier this month while going to a mosque for morning prayers. That includes the surgeon DR. Khalil-ur-Rahman Narmgo, Who was shot down in February.

This also includes the public prosecutor’s office Mirwais Samadi, shot dead by armed men while on the way to work;; and television presenter Malala Maiwand, killed along with her driver in December. Three more women from the same station that worked on the Maiwand were shot dead in March.

In response, an Afghan media rights group set up shelters for threatened journalists. “They don’t have a safe place, so come here,” says Wahida Faizi of Security Committee for Afghan Journalists. According to Faizi, the group is also distributing bulletproof vests and helping some of those threatened to leave the country.

Roshanian has been threatened before, but this time she says she takes the threats more seriously. “You see journalists and other people being killed every day all over the street, in their homes, in the bazaars.” Kiana Hayeri hiding caption for NPR

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Kiana Hayeri for NPR

Roshanian has been threatened before, but this time she says she takes the threats more seriously. “You see journalists and other people being killed every day all over the street, in their homes, in the bazaars.”

Kiana Hayeri for NPR

Identification of the murderer

It is not clear who is behind the carnage. ISIS took responsibility for the murders of five women: Maiwand, her three colleagues and a doctor.

The US and other western nations blame the Taliban. “The Taliban are responsible for most of this targeted violence,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Kabul signed by the European Union, NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan and diplomatic missions for 12 western countries.

Many Afghans agree, like a feminist who asked for anonymity because she recently received a death threat on Facebook. She believes it’s because she helped women flee from their abusive husbands.

In an interview with NPR, she said it was no coincidence that the killings increased after the Afghan peace talks began.

“The Taliban are demonstrating their power,” she says, a way for them to flex their muscles in negotiations while silencing those who disagree with them and their harsh methods. “They are aimed at journalists and civil society – people who can speak out. People who can tell the international community what is happening. They want to silence them.”

The Taliban deny responsibility. “This is false propaganda by the enemy,” said a spokesman using the name Zabihullah Mujahid. He blamed Afghan government officials for the murders.

Roshanian finds it more complicated. She believes the death lists shared on social media are actually drawn up by locals: Conservatives, Taliban sympathizers, people with resentments.

She believes they are doxing for the Taliban – by revealing people’s identities online in order to mislead militants into harming them. “These lists tell the Taliban: These are the people who cause trouble, who bring new thoughts into the minds of women. They identify us so that the Taliban can kill us.”

Roshanian, who runs the women’s magazine, finds it more complicated. She believes the death lists shared on social media are actually drawn up by locals: Conservatives, Taliban sympathizers, people with resentments. Kiana Hayeri hiding caption for NPR

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Kiana Hayeri for NPR

Roshanian, who runs the women’s magazine, finds it more complicated. She believes the death lists shared on social media are actually drawn up by locals: Conservatives, Taliban sympathizers, people with resentments.

Kiana Hayeri for NPR

Be careful, other hands may be at work.

A clergyman, Ustadh Abdul Salaam Abed, who survived a bomb explosion that hit his vehicle, believes Afghan intelligence officials are targeting people as well.

“Intelligence has a direct hand,” he says. “There are people in the system who are afraid of the nation’s voices, afraid of the coming peace,” he says. He cut off his conversation with nervous chuckles and said he could hear beeps on the line that he believed were due to bugging his phone.

Afghan government officials declined to comment on the story.

Amnesty International recently criticized the government that the creation of a body to protect human rights defenders was not pushed forward. Other diplomats said that while the government was investigating these murders, little did anything to communicate with victims’ families or the media about steps they are taking to combat violence.

A mission to intimidate

Akbar of the Human Rights Commission says even if the killers are unknown, the intent is clear. “It’s a deliberate attempt to kill people or drive them off the land,” she says. “Unfortunately it worked.”

The murders already affect reporters. Faizi’s organization recently published a report whereas more than 300 women – a fifth of all working in Afghan media – have quit their jobs due to the murders and uncertainties surrounding COVID-19.

One of them is a young reporter who has asked for anonymity because worrying attention would trigger a death threat. She fought her family to become a reporter – a job they said was not honorable for a woman. She found a job, but then the murders started. She gave up for fear for her life. “Now the world feels dark,” she tells NPR. “I always think, what if this is permanent? What if I never work again?”

There were other secondary victims of these murders as well. Karima Rahimyar, a school teacher and activist for girls’ education, was threatened on Facebook. She continues to work defiantly. But she has withdrawn her own daughters from university – until the danger is over or until they can escape. “I’m afraid for my daughters,” she says.

Roshanian, the editor of the feminist magazine, is now working from home but her friends tell her to flee. “They all tell me, ‘Fatima, the things you are doing for this country are useless. They will not influence anyone.'” She replies: “If you think that way and I start to think like you – what is going to happen here stay? “

Hadid reported from Islamabad; Ghani from Kabul.

Jack

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