Recent developments have shown that while the Taliban can resist individual attempts to push for more freedoms and rights under its Islamic rule, change is possible if the international community joins together and pushes back, Ayesha Tanzeem, Voice of America’s former bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan and current director of the South and Central Asia Division, said in an interview published on Wednesday.
“No single country, no single international organisation or NGO can do it,” Tanzeem told Adam Gallagher from the United States Institute of Peace. “The Taliban need the international community. They need financial support, they need humanitarian aid. So if everybody holds hands, they can push back and the Taliban will listen.”
The experienced journalist’s comments were based on an example of Taliban first disallowing women to work. At first many NGOs complied, but then upon pushback from the international community, Taliban “backed out” and organisations have received assurances that their female staff will be allowed to work.
Taliban’s decision to ban women from NGOs and universities received condemnation from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well. Such objections from Muslim-majority countries are “extremely powerful”, Tanzeem said.
The Taliban took back control of Afghanistan after US-led NATO forces withdrew from the country in August 2021. At this point, Afghan media has lost more than 75 percent of its female work force, Tanzeem said, citing Reporters without Borders (RSF) figures.
The newly instated official and unofficial rules have “made it almost impossible” for journalists in Afghanistan to do “any kind of meaningful reporting”, she continued. “The decrees are so vaguely worded, that any news story can be picked up and can be deemed as in violation of a rule somewhere.”
Journalists have found workarounds, and received great support from international media powerhouses. VoA, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Free Europe “have now shifted to modes of delivery that are outside the control of Taliban”, Tanzeem continued. Upon restrictions, media organizations move to satellite TV, short-wave radio and social media. “Because the Taliban don’t have the resources or means right now to shut down social media unless they shut down the internet.”