Afghan news anchor Beheshta Arghand has become the latest in a mass exodus of journalists, who like millions of other people, fear for their safety since the Taliban took control of the war-torn country. The 24-year-old TOLO anchor was a trailblazer in her field, making history earlier this month as she interviewed a senior Taliban representative, becoming the first woman to do so.
The interview, the first-ever of a Taliban representative sitting across a woman anchor on live TV, made headlines around the world. And two days later, Arghand interviewed Malala Yousafzai – the activist who survived an assignation attempt by the Taliban. TOLO said it was the first time the Pakistani activist was interviewed on Afghan TV.
However, like Arghand has had to put her groundbreaking work on hold for the moment, citing the increasing dangers that journalists and others are facing in Afghanistan from the Taliban to leave the country.
“I left the country because, like millions of people, I fear the Taliban,” she told CNN Business via text messages on WhatsApp.
Arghand decided to become a journalist at the age of nine after one of her teachers let her come to the front of the class and read the news “like I was the anchor on TV”. She studied journalism at Kabul University for four years before working at a number of news agencies and radio stations. She then joined TOLO earlier this year.
“I worked there for a month and 20 days, then the Taliban came,” she said.
She said that while the interview with the Taliban official was difficult, she “did it for Afghan women”.
She hopes the Taliban keep their word and the situation in Afghanistan improves, so she can return with her family back to the country and “work for my country, for my people”.
Meanwhile, Saad Mohseni, the owner of TOLO, said that Arghand’s situation is symbolic of the plight of the country. “Almost all our well-known reporters and journalists have left,” he told CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday. “We have been working like crazy to replace them with new people.”
He said the agency is faced with a twin-pronged challenge – figuring out a way to get their journalists out in order to keep them safe while “keeping the operation going”.