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The Azadi Briefing: Mysterious Death Of Popular Female YouTuber Prompts Anger

Hora Sadat, a popular female YouTuber in Afghanistan, mysteriously died earlier this week in Kabul.
Hora Sadat, a popular female YouTuber in Afghanistan, mysteriously died earlier this week in Kabul.

Welcome back to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Mustafa Sarwar, a senior news editor at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

Hora Sadat, a prominent female Afghan YouTuber, mysteriously died in Kabul on August 21. Reports suggested the 25-year-old was poisoned after attending a public event.

The Taliban on August 24 said that two people -- a man and a woman -- had been arrested in connection with Sadat’s death.

The motive for her alleged poisoning is not clear. Sadat’s death has prompted anger on social media, with some activists pointing the finger at the Taliban. But others have speculated that personal enmity could have been the cause of her death. She is believed to have recently split from her fiance.

When contacted by RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, Sadat’s brother refused to comment on the details of her death.

Why It's Important: Sadat’s death has underscored the dangers faced by women under the Taliban.

Since seizing power in 2021, the Taliban has banned women from education and most forms of employment, effectively denied them any public role in society, and imposed strict limitations on their mobility and appearance.

Sadat, who had tens of thousands of subscribers on YouTube, produced videos on social issues for a mainly young audience. She also participated in public events organized by women in Kabul, although she was not known for publicly criticizing the Taliban.

Maryam Maarouf Arwin, an Afghan women’s rights activist, told Radio Azadi that she suspected Sadat had been targeted and killed. “In the past, we have witnessed the murder of active women many times," she said.

There is no evidence that the Taliban was involved in Sadat’s death.

What's Next: The militant group has previously detained or arrested women who have played a visible role in society, a trend that is likely to continue.

On August 20, the Taliban detained eight female members of the Afghan Unity and Solidarity Movement, which has publicly opposed the militant group’s draconian policies. The women were reportedly released after vowing to stop their protests.

In January, Mursal Nabidzadah, a former female lawmaker, was shot dead along with a bodyguard when unidentified gunmen broke into her house in Kabul. The motives for her killing still remain unclear.

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Members of Afghanistan's tiny Sikh and Hindu communities say the Taliban has imposed restrictions on their appearances and prevented them from marking important religious holidays in public. Many Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have fled the country in recent years following deadly attacks targeting the religious minorities.

'I Feel Suffocated': Taliban Intensifies Clampdown On Music In Afghanistan

The Taliban is intensifying the enforcement of its ban on music. In the western city of Herat, residents say that members of the Taliban's morality police have searched cars and confiscated MP3 players and USBs containing music. Others in the city complain that the militants are also searching homes and seizing musical instruments, which they then burn publicly.

What To Keep An Eye On

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a report released on August 24 that 33 hospitals that provide services to around 9 million Afghans are on “the verge of stopping their services.”

The organization also noted an uptick in the cases of acute diarrhea and dengue fever in the country.

The report came after Daniel Endres, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, said on August 17 that 260 fixed and mobile health centers have been closed in the country, depriving some 2 million people access to health services.

Why It's Important: Afghanistan has been gripped by a public health-care crisis since the Taliban seized power, which led to Western donors abruptly cutting off assistance.

Aid groups funded by international donors have continued their operations in the fields of health, education, and food assistance. But their activities have been hampered by decreasing funding by donors, the Taliban’s alleged interference in the delivery of foreign aid, and the militants’ ban on women working for NGOs.

Declining funding by international donors is likely to worsen the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the largest in the world.

Mohammad Ali, a resident of Kabul, told Radio Azadi that he is concerned about the possible closure of the 33 hospitals funded by Western donors.

"Afghans are in such a bad situation. They are wondering when they will eat their next bit of bread. What should we do if the hospitals are closed?" he said.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Mustafa Sarwar

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    Mustafa Sarwar

    Mustafa Sarwar is a senior news editor for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, one of the most popular and trusted media outlets in Afghanistan. Nearly half of the country's adult audience accesses Azadi's reporting on a weekly basis.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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