Award Ceremony At Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Radio Free Europe's Internal Awards are given to the "greatest journalistic achievements in breaking news coverage, reporting, features, videos and photography" to reporters from 22 countries including the journalists based in Prague. These awards are given on monthly basis. This internal competition has the title "Best of RFE/RL.
In 2018, I was one of the six jury members. Here is an excerpt from the 8th Annual Best Of RFE/RL Awards where I announced the award for social content.

Malali Bashir Announcing Annual Best RFE/RL Social Content 2018

Remembering Our Afghan Colleagues

The Last Joint Report We Did With Slain Colleague Sabawoon Kakar

AFGHANISTAN -- Sabawoon Kakar, RFE/RL journalist who died after injuries in Kabul attack on April 30, 2018
AFGHANISTAN -- Sabawoon Kakar, RFE/RL journalist who died after injuries in Kabul attack on April 30, 2018
A compelling video about an Afghan’s women’s cricket team was the last story produced by Radio Azadi’s Prague-based Malali Bashir jointly with Sabawoon Kakar, a reporter in Kabul who was killed along with ten other journalists in Afghanistan in separate occasions on April 30. A total of three RFE/RL colleagues -- two reporters and a trainee who was about to start work -- were killed that day. This post by Bashir is a tribute to Sabawoon Kakar and other slain Afghan colleagues, and was initially published on RFE/RL's internal news portal Liberty Net.
I was on my way to the office in Prague on the morning of April 30 when I first read the news of the suicide attacks. I also read that Shah Marai was among the dead. Shah Marai worked as a senior photographer for France Press. I knew Marai for his incredible work and later knew him via Twitter. I called my husband Bashir Ahmad, who is also a journalist, right away and we both shared our grief over the loss of this beautiful person.
When I came to the office, I read another message from Kabul on my phone about Abadullah Hananzai being among the dead and Sabawoon Kakar among the injured. Our colleagues in Kabul and Prague were devastated by this news. In the morning editorial meeting, we were told that Sabawoon Kakar had undergone surgery, that the doctors removed some shrapnel from his body. After the meeting was over I came to my desk.
Shortly afterward, I heard my colleague Norias Nori say that Sabawoon Kakar was no more. I didn’t want to believe my ears and asked in shock: dead? My desk phone rang. It showed the name of Ibrahim Safi, a video journalist in the Kabul office who also worked with me on different reports from there. I was always in contact with Sabawoon Kakar, Ibrahim Safi and Tamim Akhgar for videos and clips that we required for different field reports.
I picked up the phone receiver and heard what I feared. It was Safi’s tearful and shaky voice: Kakar is dead! He died! I could hear men and women crying in the background. Safi was calling from his desk and all our colleagues in Kabul were mourning, in shock and despair. We both cried and I only could say that I would call him back. Everyone was grieving in Prague and Kabul. Ten journalists had died in separate attacks in Afghanistan on that day.
I was scheduled to prepare and present the TV news that day. I read the news of the deaths of my dear colleagues on camera with a heavy heart.
The last story that I worked on jointly with Sabawoon Kakar was on Afghanistan’s women’s cricket team.

Screen grab from Malali Bashir's last joint report with slain colleague Sabawoon Kakar
Screen grab from Malali Bashir's last joint report with slain colleague Sabawoon Kakar
Afghanistan had a women’s cricket team formed in 2010 which played internationally and in 2012 this team went to Tajikistan and won a challenge cup among 6 teams. But soon that team was disbanded and its creator Diana Barakzai fired by the cricket board. We wanted to find out why that team was disbanded and why Afghanistan still does not have a women’s cricket team while there are Afghan women's teams in soccer, track and field, boxing, taekwondo, and other sports.
Sabawoon Kakar interviewed Diana Barakzai, former captain of the women’s cricket team, as a part of this report. She told Radio Azadi that the board uses the issues of "insecurity" and "Afghan culture" as an excuse to mask prejudice against women. Diana Barakzai believes she was fired and her team disbanded because she had complained that conservative board members were obstructing the development of the women's game and misusing U.S. aid. Barakzai says that she has contacts for more than 4,000 girls and women who are begging to play the game. Sabawoon informed me in a voice message that he had transferred the video interview files via FTP.
One of his voice messages to me says: Salam, Malali sister, how are you? I hope you are in good health. I gave the interview to Ibrahim Safi and he transferred it to you in the morning. Today is the international day of reading books and I am on my way to take footage for my report on this topic.
I received Sabawoon’s last written message on my phone on April 26, five days before he died. I had told him that I was sorry I had not seen one of his messages and he wrote back in Pashto: hila kawam, which roughly means, ‘no problem’.
Sabawoon was a very dedicated, career-oriented, thriving and brave journalist. He fearlessly covered the news of explosions and suicide attacks. He was interested in covering issues that other people might fear covering. He reported on issues related to women.
I worked with Sabawoon on another story where a family in Kabul claimed their daughter was murdered by her husband. The husband was in prison. I arranged the interview and sent my questions to Sabawoon so he could talk with the family on camera. We wanted to take both sides of the story and worked on talking to the authorities, to the defense lawyer and anyone else involved. Meanwhile, the police let Sabawoon meet the dead woman’s husband in jail; he threatened to hurt Sabawoon if we issued the story.
We decided not to publish the story because the case was still pre-trial and we did not want our reporting to shape opinions in a murder case. Sabawoon kept hoping we would publish the story but we had to wait for the court hearing. Even though Sabawoon will never see the report published, I want to pursue this story to the end.
Sabawoon died a day before his fifth anniversary at RFE/RL. Sabawoon's pregnant wife gave birth to their second son five days after Kakar was killed. RFE/RL produced a video report about this titled: The Child Who Will Never See His Father​.
I hope we remember him for his work and for the person he was.

Rreviously published here.  

I believe in sisterhood, which is called ‘Khorwali’ in Pashto

By Claudia Shute

In a country where women are often publicly referred to by the names of their male relatives, the campaign Where Is My Name? aims to help Afghan women reclaim their identities. Launched on social media by a group of young Afghan women, and supported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Afghan Service, the initiative that brings Afghan women’s rights to the forefront of media attention has gone global.
The campaign consists mainly of thousands of men and women who are making the seemingly small, but in reality, profound decision to share the names of their mothers, sisters, and wives on Twitter and Facebook using the #WhereIsMyName (#ناممـکجاست). RFE/RL’s Afghan Service, known locally as Radio Azadi, has supported the movement by sharing responses and information on social media in English, Pashto, and Dari.
Famous singers and actresses have also joined the campaign, including Farhad Darya, a musician who was named Radio Azadi’s Person of the Year in 2011.
Radio Azadi dedicated a call-in radio show to the campaign, during which male participants reversed a traditional practice, and introduced themselves as the son, father, or husband of a woman. These statements, Radio Azadi reporter Malali Bashir tells RFE/RL Pressroom, were remarkable for putting the woman’s name first.
Reporters for Radio Azadi’s Kabul bureau also went to the streets to see if ordinary people were prepared to share the names of their female relatives -- and many did.
The campaign relies on networks inside Afghan communities to spread the message that women’s rights matter. Says Bashir, “I believe in sisterhood, which is called ‘Khorwali’ in Pashto, but I also believe that men can be important allies in this fight for women’s rights.”
“It is simply about giving women an identity. Her name is the first thing that should come to mind if you accept a woman’s existence,” she says.
The impact of the movement is difficult to measure, but Bashir has received indications that its message is being heard. She has personally received photos of wedding invitations altered to include the bride’s name; the name of a bride who was killed on her wedding day recently appeared on the announcement of her funeral, Bashir says, which is uncommon.
International women’s rights groups have publicized the campaign to raise awareness about gender relations in Afghanistan and the wider region, and its co-founders have been invited to discuss it at a number of public events.
Says Bashir, “People are thinking, which is the first step.”
Not surprisingly, the campaign has also elicited a backlash, which some say is further testimony to its impact. In one incident, Tahmineh Rashiq, one of the campaign’s founders, was subject to online harassment and had her Facebook photos stolen and shared publicly.
Bashir notes that, due to societal pressure, formidable barriers to equality persist online, where many women use fake names to hide their identity, lest they be viewed as “loose women.”
“It is as if they wear a social media burqa -- you do not want to wear it, but you must to protect yourself against sexism and misogyny,” she says.
Bashir mentions the #MeToo (#زمانوم) movement, initiated by an uprising of women in America and Europe against sexual harassment, that is also emboldening Afghan women to speak out for their rights online and offline.
Asked how women’s rights measure up against Afghanistan’s other challenges, including daily atrocities related to poverty, extremism, and violence, says Bashir, “they are one of the first basic steps towards equality.”

This article first appeared on Lady Liberty of RFE/RL:

The Afghan Diplomat Who Hit His Wife

The Afghan Diplomat Who Hit His Wife

This picture circulated in social media in Afghanistan

On July 23 a report said Mohammad Yama Aini, a counselor to the Afghan Mission in UN, beat his wife so severely that she ended up in hospital in Flushing New York. Report said Mr. Aini was not charged because of his diplomatic immunity.  

The news spread all over social media in Afghanistan and became a hot topic among Afghans on internet. While women rights activists condemned this act, many refrained from discussing the issue further because Mr. Aini was said to be linked with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salahuddin Rabbani who is also a member of Jamiat-e-Islami party. Others chose to say that those who talk about this incident of domestic violence are actually doing it because of Mr. Aini’s political affiliations to Mr. Rabbani. Others tried to shove the issue under a rug by saying: this is their personal matter. 

Amid the conspiracy theories, some Afghans chose to slut-shame Mr. Aini’s wife, Mezhgan Aini. Some women said she spread ruswayi, which means revealing secrets of one’s family.  Others accused her of cheating or marrying Mr. Aini for his money and power because how come she married a person, they wrote, who “… not handsome, nor well educated neither well mannered.” 

Many others called this act of Mr. Aini a black spot on the name of Afghanistan.