Aynoor: Quitting Journalism Was Like the Death of My Dreams

By: Behnia

The pain of injustice and the untold stories of the silent majority feel like a bitter poison stuck in Aynoor’s throat. She swallows them with every sip of her hot tea. Her suffocating sighs seem to reach the sky, and she speaks of resigning from her job as a journalist. In the past two years, Aynoor has been exhausted by the injustices, censorship of facts, and humiliation imposed on female journalists by the Taliban. She no longer allows herself to continue in this profession. These days, Aynoor turns to poetry to ease her pain and clear her throat.

Aynoor (pseudonym) completed her journalism studies at Kabul University with a world full of hope and passion. She was 23 years old at the time. Aynoor had devoted four years of her life to achieving her dream of becoming a top journalist, and her determination had pushed her to work harder and enter the field sooner. She began her journalism career one year before the collapse of the Republic regime when the voice of freedom of speech had not yet been silenced. However, after the Taliban took over the country and shattered the dreams of many girls and women, Aynoor’s dream of becoming a top journalist was buried under the soil of despair. Now, instead of writing facts, she weaves bitter abnormalities of society in the form of poetry and records them in a notebook.

After the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the consequent disruption of other professional fields for women, media work, which had been led by women for over 50% in the past two decades, also faced huge limitations. Aynoor, a female journalist in Afghanistan, has been striving for almost two years to be the voice of her people and report the facts from the mouths of citizens and Taliban officials. Unfortunately, each attempt has been unsuccessful. Rather than reporting the truth, she is pressured to be the voice of injustice and to repeat anything said about her counterparts, and to work towards improving the Taliban’s reputation.

Aynoor declares that “Freedom of expression in Afghanistan is dead.” She no longer plans to continue being a role model for those who had looked up to her and grieve over this shattered dream. After working in media for several years, this female journalist prefers spending her days sitting in a corner of her room, reading books extensively and deeply, and writing down her notes

Aynoor states that journalism has become exceedingly challenging due to the current situation, where censorship has reached its peak. Despite journalists’ awareness that reality is different, they are unable to access firsthand and accurate information and are forced to report in favor of the Taliban.

The excessive censorship of information on one hand and the current government’s attitude towards women on the other have left Aynoor feeling hopeless. Sometimes she wishes to travel far away and never return. As a female journalist, she finds it very challenging to interview Taliban officials or participate in their conferences. She feels that they don’t even consider her human, and enduring this demeaning and insulting behavior is very difficult for her.

As Aynoor discusses her bitter experience as a female journalist, she trembles with anger and frustration, and her facial veins bulge. She recalls an encounter with a Taliban official during an interview, saying, “I picked up the phone to get the opinion of a Taliban official on a matter. My colleague immediately warned me not to call him because he does not talk to female journalists and mistreats them. Despite this, I called him and introduced myself, but he hung up without a word. His behavior deeply affected me, and I resolved never to contact Taliban officials again.”

Aynoor and her colleagues have been unable to continue their work as a journalist due to Taliban restrictions on female journalists, and the group’s policies on domestic media. Aynoor explains, “In the media outlet where I worked, it was clear that during sensitive situations, female reporters were not allowed to cover them. Instead, male reporters were assigned to cover the story because certain officials refuse to speak with women. Girls were given simpler tasks and subjects to cover.”

Despite the challenging circumstances, Aynoor remained dedicated to her work and hoped to bring about change. She occasionally avoided political subjects of interest and ventured into areas far from the Taliban and the oppressive environment of her office. Aynoor aimed to capture the daily life and cultural aspects of the people she encountered. However, by immersing herself among them, she encountered similar difficulties.

Those who feel like outcasts in the current regime accuse Aynoor of not reporting the real situation of people’s lives and the voices of citizens under Taliban rule. However, most people are afraid to be interviewed due to fear of the Taliban. Aynoor explains, “The most challenging part of the job is that people have lost trust in the media. They believe that if they speak the truth about the Taliban’s rule, it will not be published. Many are afraid to even speak about things unrelated to the Taliban because of the hopelessness and fear they feel toward the group. We spend a lot of time searching, and out of hundreds of people, only a few are willing to be interviewed.”

After taking a moment to look away and wipe a tear from her eye, she eases the lump in her throat with a sip of tea. To break the silence in the empty room, she eagerly shares pictures from her mobile gallery of the day she started working as a reporter, one after another, with a sigh of nostalgia for those days.

Aynoor recalls the good old days when she faced numerous challenges reflecting information and facts but could still tell the truth with love and passion without any obstacles. She adds, “I could be the voice of the silent majority, reflecting injustice, and the people who had been marginalized.”

Now, however, her voice is silenced. Aynoor worked alone for months, gathering information and trying to report as a journalist. She realized that she had no place among the people who needed her to be their voice, and she was forced to betray her profession. Aynoor lost hope, motivation, and drive to become a top journalist in the current situation. She has committed to not be a voice that hides the truth and speaks in favor of those who forced her to do so.