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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

She was lauded for challenging a Taliban member on live TV. Then she fled.


In the fear-filled days after the Taliban stormed into Kabul, she was hailed as the brave young woman who questioned one of the militants on live television, providing hope that Afghan women might not lose all their freedoms.

But days later, like others who feared the militants’ wrath, Behishta Arghand, a former news presenter with Tolo news, fled the country, landing with her parents and four siblings in a sparsely furnished villa in a walled compound on the outskirts of Doha, Qatar.

Ms. Arghand, 24, spoke proudly of her interview and said she hoped the Taliban would follow through on their vows to allow more openness than when they ruled the country before the United States invasion 20 years ago.

“We don’t have any government now,” she said in an interview. “We just hope they do what they promise. But now everyone is scared of the Taliban.”

Ms. Arghand recalled the shock she felt when she learned that the Taliban had entered Kabul, and the fear that gripped the Afghan capital the next day. Still, she said, she went to work to make a point about the role of women in public life.

“I wanted to show the Taliban that we want to work,” she said. “We want to be in the media. It’s our right in society.”

Ms. Arghand said she was presenting the news on Aug. 17 when she got a feeling that there was a guest in the studio. She soon realized it was Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad, a member of the Taliban’s media team.

She had only a few moments to prepare.

Her producers, she said, told her to try to draw out information without challenging her guest. But once on the air, she challenged him anyway, asking about reports that the Taliban had conducted house-to-house searches in the city.

After the interview, her phone was flooded with messages from friends and relatives who were both proud and terrified that she had questioned her guest so directly.

Not long after, she and her family fled, fearing that remaining in Kabul was too dangerous.

Ms. Arghand is now staying in a house with no television or internet. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be there. She doesn’t know where she’ll go next.

But she dreams of returning home someday to help women.

“If I am alive, I will do a lot for my home,” she said. “My country needs my generation.”





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