With the Taliban set to install their own unelected government in a few days to rule Afghanistan, one Canadian-based advocacy group fears the terror organization could begin to take aim at those critical of Taliban operations.
Journalists for Human Rights, which is headquartered out of Toronto, has helped coordinate the evacuations of Afghan journalists from the besieged country.
While they’ve helped to fund the evacuations, they’ve acted as a gateway for Afghan journalists to connect with the right authorities. So far, they’ve organized with the Canadian, Qatari and Ukrainian governments to evacuate 46 people from Afghanistan into neighbouring countries. At least five people have made their way to Canada.
“These people are visible,” said Rachel Pulfer, executive director of Journalists for Human Rights. “They are known to have been criticizing in public the actions of the Taliban.”
While Pulfer and her team have been working around the clock to secure funding to help families that have either assisted Canadian journalists or worked as journalists in the country themselves, many remain stuck.
“We’ve got at least 260+ more to go — the numbers are climbing daily,” said Pulfer.
Since the United States began a full-scale pullout of the country, it allowed the Taliban to seize control and topple the Afghan government.
The Taliban grabbed control after the United States announced they would be pulling out their troops. The Taliban takeover followed a 20-year-long war in the country that saw over 100,000 lives lost and trillions of dollars spent.
Fear of targeting, retaliation
On July 15, award-winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was shot and killed in Afghanistan by members of the Taliban. Siddiqui worked for Reuters News Agency, and according to a report by his colleagues, he was killed after being left behind following a clash between Afghan Special Forces and the Taliban.
Indian government officials and Afghan security officials said they believe Siddiqui’s body was mutilated while in Taliban custody. The terror organization denied those claims.
The violence against journalists is troubling to Pulfer. In the past few weeks, members of her team have said journalists stuck in Afghanistan have been threatened, beaten and shot at.
“These people are being hunted,” she said. “We do not have the luxury of time.”
In the case of these journalists, Pulfer thinks Canada and other countries need to be more flexible with their immigration terms. She noted the Canadian government and especially Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has “stepped up” after there was an opportunity to work with the Qatar government to provide a safe exit.
“We need to provide flexible terms to get these people where they need to go, whether it be Canada or somewhere else,” said Pulfer.
Pulfer, who’s worked in war-stricken countries like Mali, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo said she’s never seen anything quite like what’s unfolding in Afghanistan.
“It is the worst situation I’ve seen in terms of the cynicism of the outcome.”
The organization is now calling on neighbouring countries like Pakistan to keep their borders open and asking them to exert their influence to request safe passage for journalists. But, more importantly, Pulfer thinks the path forward will be when countries that wield power hold the Taliban accountable. The organization has stated they would provide free passage to safety for those who want to leave.
“Everybody needs to hold them to the things they’ve been saying they’re going to do.”
Journalism for Human Rights plans to continue their efforts. The organization is asking for funding to hit their $1,000,000 goal to keep supporting efforts to evacuate journalists out of Kabul.
Disclaimer: Global News has in the past partnered and worked with with Journalists for Human Rights.