Shabnam Khan Dawran stood as much as the Taliban as a number one TV presenter. Now they’ve come for her household | EUROtoday

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As a number one TV presenter championing girls’s rights, Shabnam Khan Dawran isn’t any stranger to loss of life threats.

The newest one – obtained on Twitter/X simply an hour earlier than our interview – says if she doesn’t cease talking out towards the Taliban on her London-based present “you know what will happen to your family”.

The threats aren’t summary. Her father has already been arrested thrice in Afghanistan.

On one event he was overwhelmed and left for lifeless – his head bleeding, arm and leg damaged as a message to Shabnam. More lately, the Taliban tracked her household to the nation the place they’ve been compelled into hiding.

Having fled Afghanistan in 2021 after a web based clip of her difficult the Taliban went viral, she lately obtained messages with the tackle and picture of her household’s new secure home. The implication was clear: cease difficult us or we’ll kill your mother and father.

The strain on the 26-year-old journalist could be an excessive amount of if it was not for her father’s resilience within the face of persecution, she says. Wearing a conventional Afghan embroidered black shirt, she speaks clearly within the English she has been quickly enhancing throughout her three years dwelling right here.

As she searches for the phrases to specific herself, the affect of the fixed hazard that her household is going through is evident from her tone of voice: “He told me I cannot stop.”

Recalling her father’s phrases to her after his brutal assault, she mentioned: “Now I am older I can sacrifice myself for Afghanistan, for human rights for women and girls, but don’t stop just for me. If you are my friend, my daughter, a member of my family, promise me you have to carry on.”

Shabnam is a TV anchor with Afghanistan International in London
Shabnam is a TV anchor with Afghanistan International in London (The Independent )

“I made that promise,” she mentioned. Tears come to her eyes as she describes the price of doing so: “Now my father cannot stand by his own feet. He has to hold something to help him up. He used to be in good health but now his leg is broken, his arm broken. He is an unwell man, just for supporting his daughter.”

“Journalism is not a crime. Being an anchor is not a crime,” she mentioned, including that her first want is to have the ability to hug her mom and father once more.

While Shabnam and her two youthful siblings had been airlifted to security within the UK as a part of the Western forces evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021, her older sister and oldsters had been left behind.

Her father, a military pilot for the earlier Afghan authorities, utilized to return to Britain below the Ministry of Defence’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) however was rejected twice as a result of he didn’t work instantly for UK troops.

Despite essentially the most urgent menace to his life coming instantly because of the journalism Shabnam is ready to do within the UK, the federal government has refused to assist.

Former British military officer tells of the ‘terrifying’ approach Taliban targets critics

There is presently no route for individuals who had been airlifted out below Operation Pitting, the Western forces’ evacuation effort, to be reunited with members of the family who’ve been left behind. Despite strain from quite a lot of MPs, together with Tory Sir Julian Lewis and Lib Dem Wendy Chamberlain, and a promise to arrange a resettlement route, the Home Office has but to start out any further assist.

MPs have criticised the division for performing too slowly to convey girls’s rights activists and others who’ve supported the British mission to the UK. The authorities pledged to convey 20,000 individuals over 5 years to the UK below the Afghan residents resettlement scheme. But in the entire of 2022 and 2023 mixed simply 1,611 Afghans had been relocated by means of the Home Office and Foreign Office schemes, MPs mentioned.

The visa for the nation the place Shabnam’s household fled to has now run out and they’re determined to get to a spot of security, to be lastly out of the Taliban’s attain.

Shabnam in her previous role as a journalist before the Taliban takeover
Shabnam in her earlier position as a journalist earlier than the Taliban takeover (Supplied)

Ash Alexander-Cooper, a former British military officer who labored in Afghanistan, has been supporting Shabnam’s household in hiding.

Describing the trouble to evade Taliban retaliation, he mentioned: “Witnessing the way in which the Taliban are deliberately, methodically tracking her parents and her family, is terrifying. From the time I spent in Afghanistan, there are many who we didn’t evacuate in time, who have been tracked down and murdered.

“[The Taliban] do not want to be challenged. Shabnam will not stop challenging them, and rightly so. But unfortunately, innocent victims like her and her father will continue to be targeted, and hunted unless we can find them a safe haven.”

Shabnam’s father had his leg and arm broken in a Taliban attack
Shabnam’s father had his leg and arm damaged in a Taliban assault (Supplied )

The operation to convey Shabnam to the UK started after she tried to go to work three days after the Taliban takeover. Confronted by guards with weapons, she tried to argue with them to be let into her workplace.

In their first information convention following their beautiful takeover of Afghanistan on 17 August 2021, the Taliban had promised to guard girls’s rights and press freedom. They mentioned girls could be allowed to work and examine, however when Shabnam went to check this in the actual world she was barred.

“On the third day, I decided to go to my job with Afghanistan National TV. They had said that the media would have freedom to publish what they wanted, but that was just a lie. I was wearing a long dress, covered my hair and my face and I had my ID card. I tried to enter the gate and one of the Taliban confronted me, saying ‘lady where are you going?’”

Despite his suffering, Shabnam’s father has urged her to continue her work
Despite his struggling, Shabnam’s father has urged her to proceed her work (Supplied)

Defiant, she tried to elucidate that the brand new leaders had promised girls would have the precise to work. But the Taliban guards advised her she must return residence. Twenty years of liberation had been sufficient, they mentioned, girls had had their probability.

The argument escalated till she was threatened with being shot and compelled to return residence to relative security. But later, within the quiet of her room, contemplating the longer term that lay earlier than her, she realised she couldn’t do nothing.

She recorded a video explaining what had occurred to her, telling her followers that the Taliban regime had lied about how they might deal with girls below their energy. It went viral. She was quickly being contacted by journalists world wide eager to interview her and, after lobbying, the UK authorities determined they have to intervene.

Ministers accepted her and her youthful siblings’ relocation below Arap and he or she started her life within the UK. The life she has been in a position to construct in London has led to a place because the main information anchor of a nightly Pashto speak present on Afghanistan International TV, named Sparana.

“Sparana in Pashto means to negotiate, to try and find a solution. We invite three guests with different opinions on each night and we create a debate. We speak about what is happening in Afghanistan and we even invite the Taliban. I have debated with the Taliban many times on this programme. I ask them why the schools are banned, and why they have stopped girls’ rights.

“On the days that I present, I really try to speak about human rights, especially the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan. Girls don’t have any rights there. They are just living in a jail – they get food, water and oxygen and nothing else.”

It has been over 1,000 days since Afghan ladies have been banned from attending secondary college, making Afghanistan the one nation on the planet with such strict restrictions on feminine training.

Shabnam now helps her 16-year-old brother and her 22-year-old sister who’re together with her within the UK. Her sister, who was additionally a journalist again in Afghanistan, is now finding out English within the UK and her brother is at school, the place he’s thriving. Shabnam sends cash to her household overseas as it’s presently too harmful for them to work publicly the place they’re.

The merciless actuality is that the alternatives, which she has been given within the UK, are leading to hazard for her household.

Mr Alexander-Cooper defined: “It is directly because of the help and support that the UK rightly gave to Shabnam and the success of her ongoing journalism here, that’s causing her father and the remaining two family members to be at such great risk.

“We’ve moved them a number of times and they are now somewhere protected. Yet [her family are] still in a country where I can’t rest and Shabnam can’t sleep at night knowing they are not yet safe.”

Over 27,900 eligible individuals have been moved to security from Afghanistan by means of numerous schemes throughout the MoD, FCDO and Home Office. The Home Office don’t touch upon particular person instances.