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Gandhara Briefing: Afghans Left Behind, Gender Segregation, Pakistan Bombing

Afghan interpreters who worked for NATO forces protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. (File photo)
Afghan interpreters who worked for NATO forces protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. (File photo)

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If you’re new to the newsletter or haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.

U.S. veterans try to get Afghan allies out

Mike Scollon looks at the plight of around 80,000 at-risk Afghans who remain stranded in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Many risked their lives to work for the U.S. government or military but were left behind after foreign forces withdrew and the Taliban toppled the Western-backed Afghan government. Many of those Afghans are now on the run, hiding, and hunted by the Taliban.

"I feel that no one has helped me," said Hanif, who served as a security guard for U.S. and NATO special forces in Afghanistan for nearly a decade. Hanif has been living in hiding for months as he awaits word that he will be cleared for evacuation to the United States.

Outraged by the situation, U.S. military veterans and others who trained and worked with Afghans are helping their former allies get their paperwork and documents in order, provide food, money, and safe haven, and even pay for and organize evacuation flights.

"We're trying to keep them motivated, keep them hanging on for a little bit longer in hopes that the U.S. government will eventually, or some other government will eventually come along with a process to help us out," said Mike Edwards, whose volunteer organization Exodus Relief is trying to help relocate former Afghan special forces.

Taliban’s rights violations continue

Radio Azadi reports on newly emerged videos showing the Taliban summarily executing an Afghan accused of fighting against the militant group and the torture and killing of a shopkeeper. Examples of extrajudicial killings and torture continue to emerge despite the Taliban pledging to uphold human rights.

Video and images obtained by Radio Azadi showed that 48-year-old shopkeeper Ghulam Sakhi had been severely tortured. Locals in the Panjshir Valley said his battered body was thrown in front of the deceased's home the next morning.

The other victim was 25-year-old Bilal Jawani, whose family said he was a teacher. "The Taliban martyred him because of his military uniform, without any evidence of [his ties to the] resistance or the previous government," said a relative of Jawani, who was also a resident of Panjshir.

The return of gender segregation

Radio Azadi obtained a copy of a Taliban document outlining the militants’ intention to resurrect gender segregation in government offices after already enforcing the separation of men and women at universities and on public transport.

“The offices for men and women should be separate,” said the letter by the Taliban’s Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

But some women have accused Taliban foot soldiers of violating their own rules. "It is strange that they want to keep unrelated men and women separate but yet allow a stranger to go through a woman's purse," said Sanga Lamar, a Kabul University lecturer who described her recent encounter with the Taliban.

Growing self-censorship among Afghan reporters

Radio Azadi highlights a new survey that revealed that some 70 percent of journalists in Afghanistan were involved in self-censorship.

"Economic problems, job insecurity, life insecurity, and lack of access to information are all the challenges we face," Qudratullah Hamidi, a journalist in Herat, told us.

Nearly half of all Afghan media outlets have shut down their operations since the Taliban takeover in August.

(Watch a video about how Afghan women are reluctant to protest after the Taliban detained and even disappeared some female activists.)

Afghan widow’s ordeal

In this video, Radio Mashaal interviews an Afghan widow whose husband was killed in a recent Islamic State (IS) attack on a Shi’ite mosque in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar.

Marzia’s family fled to Pakistan after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. The 42-year-old said she wanted her children to continue their education. The Taliban has severely curtailed girls’ education in Afghanistan.

But tragedy hit on March 4. Marzia’s husband was killed along with 63 others when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a packed mosque during Friday Prayers. Her only son was wounded in the blast.

“We don’t have a breadwinner now,” she told Radio Mashaal. "We came here with the hope that our children will get an education. We never thought this could happen.”

I hope you found this week’s newsletter useful, and I encourage you to forward it to your colleagues.

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Abubakar Siddique
Twitter: @sid_abu

P.S.: You can always reach us at

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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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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