When Abdul Khalil Rasoli escaped threats in Afghanistan earlier this year, he thought he was guaranteeing his family a bright future.
But now journalists are trapped in Iran on expired visas, limiting their options.
“I don’t know what will happen to us,” Rasori said, explaining that her family’s visas expired three months ago. They have applied for refuge in France, but have not heard if they will be successful.
“Per minute, [Iran will] Deport us to Afghanistan. Now we cannot pay the overstay fine. He has two million rials ($50) per person per day and I don’t have that money,” he said.
Rasoli, 36, had moved to Kabul from her native province of Herat two months before the fall of the Afghan capital.
After the Taliban regained power in August 2021, he moved his wife and two daughters, ages 10 and 6, to Tehran, Iran.
However, returning to your home country is dangerous.
“I can’t go back to Afghanistan,” Rasoli told VOA. “My life is in danger there.”
threatening phone calls and emails
When he lived in Herat, the journalist reported on various issues in the daily newspapers. Hasht-e Subh.
But when he started receiving threatening phone calls and text messages, he moved his family to the capital.
“I continued to write after the fall of Kabul. For example, I wrote about the problems universities and local media were facing under the Taliban in western states,” Rasori said.
His colleagues were also under pressure. In October 2021, the newspaper reported on the acting Taliban interior minister hosting an event honoring the suicide bombers who killed thousands in Afghanistan.
Shortly after, Taliban fighters stormed the paper’s offices in Kabul and warned staff “not to publish anything that is not in line with the policies of the group.”
Rasoli said the Taliban were angry that the paper used the term “suicide attacker” instead of “self-sacrifice.”
The Taliban did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.
For Rasoli, the threats continued while he was in Kabul.
“We lived in a shelter in Kabul for a while, but then we moved to Mazar-e-Sharif,” he said, referring to one of Afghanistan’s major cities.
The family later moved to Tehran, joining other journalists fleeing Afghanistan since August 2021.
Media watchdogs say media outlets and their staff face violence, censorship and financial hardship.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported in August that 213 out of 543 media outlets had closed and more than 6,400 journalists had lost their jobs, with women most affected.
In November, the UN-assisted mission in Afghanistan said it had documented more than 200 cases of intimidation, arbitrary arrest and mistreatment of journalists since the Taliban takeover.
The Taliban rejected UNAMA’s statement.
The Taliban “support all basic rights of journalists,” Deputy Information and Culture Minister Hayat Mahaja Farahi told local media, adding: “We believe these claims are far from the truth. ‘ said.
looking for safety
In Tehran, Rasori is in contact with approximately 20 to 25 Afghan journalists who have also emigrated to Iran. However, he hopes to move to Europe.
“I came here with my family to get a visa to France,” he said.
He shared a letter from the French media group Syndicat National des Journalistes and the International Federation of Journalists advocating for his application to be granted expeditiously.
“After consulting with Afghan affiliates, IFJ believes that Abdul Khalil Rasori harbors well-founded fears about his personal safety in Afghanistan,” IFJ viewed by VOA. said the letter.
SNJ’s Nicola Edge told VOA that she and her colleagues – a group of volunteers within the syndicate – are helping direct journalists to organizations that can help with the relocation.
She estimated that about 300 journalists fled from Afghanistan, mainly to Pakistan, but also to Iran, Turkey and Uzbekistan, “hoping to get visas and move to a third country.”
The process of obtaining a visa has become “difficult and complicated,” she said, adding that “for most countries it takes time.”
Nationwide anti-government protests in Iran since September have further complicated the visa process, she said.
Edge’s organization notes that many journalists, especially women in Pakistan and Iran, are facing economic problems and appeals to the government to speed up the process.
Aqila Mobarez Haidari has been in Iran for eight months and, like Rasoli, is trapped awaiting a visa to move to a new country.
Before leaving Afghanistan, Haydari, 24, worked for Negah TV and Radio and Marefat Radio in Kabul. She hosted a political show on her Negah radio show where they discussed the Taliban.
“My life was in danger when they came to power,” she said.
Hydari still believes that being deported would be life-threatening.
The journalist traveled with other family members when moving to Iran to avoid being stopped by the Taliban for “not being with Mahram.” [a male relative]”
“It is difficult to work away from the country, but because of the Taliban all I could think about was fleeing Afghanistan,” said Hydari.
She has filled out a form requesting a transfer to a third country but has not heard back. Meanwhile, Hydari overstayed his visa to Iran.
“It’s hard for us to live in uncertainty all these months,” said Hydari. She said returning to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was not an option because the Taliban are “against women.”
But she said, “I don’t know about my future.”
The story originated with VOA’s Afghan service.