A Woman's Dilemma Between Two Choices; “No Job or No Children”
Born and raised in war, she has witnessed conflict in the country since she can remember. From the days when people gathered around radio to hear the news of their fate, she wanted to become a reporter to inform Afghan people about the world and the world about what is happening in Afghanistan.
In the early years of her youth, which coincided with the last year of Taliban rule, she lost her husband in the war, and all that was left for her was three children and distant dreams. Shakila Ibrahimkhel, one of the most successful media figures, said that since the post-Taliban years, the traditional and patriarchal nature of society, and insecurity have made life and work difficult for female journalists in the country.
She worked as a reporter for one of the country’s media from 2006 to 2016. She said that one of the first people to disagree with her work on television was her husband’s family. “When I was working on television, I had trouble with some of my husband’s family members. It was not acceptable for them to see a woman working on television, so they took my children out of kindergarten several times and returned them each time through the mediation of my father and the elders of the tribe. “I could not appear on television fearing that my children would be taken away from me.” Said Ibrahimkhil.
Mrs. Ibrahimkhel, who now works abroad said that throughout her career in Afghanistan as a committed and passionate journalist, and as a concerned mother, she always had a mixed feeling of interest and fear. “Journalism has always been my goal, I always wanted to work to be the voice of the people. Once, when I reported on a martyred municipal employee, and dozens of people reached me to help his family which gave me good feelings. But, unfortunately, when I was threatened by the authorities for publishing reports on corruption, I feared for the life of my children with no parents.
She added that despite constant threats and repeated pressures by her family to resign, she has never considered it as an option, and that the stress of tragic events of domestic violence, suicide, and explosions has never caused her to retreat. In one incident, the death of her colleagues caused by the Taliban’s attack had detrimental impact on her. “Working together, we became family, and remembering their loss, deeply saddens me”, said Mrs. Ibrahimkhil. Following that incident, her rumors being the next target of the Taliban spread on social media which increasingly worried her about the future of her children. “I was weak, depressed, and increasingly worried about my children. When I went to press conferences and other programs, other media colleagues took videos and photos of me, thinking that this time I might be targeted”, she remembers.
Mrs. Ibrahimkhil said that as the threats increased, she finally decided to leave the country. It was a difficult choice for her to make. She wanted to return several times as she left. At times, she was in a dilemma, when she did not really know if she wanted to return or continue forward. As someone who was born and raised in war and was eventually forced to leave her parents and family behind due to insecurity, she hopes for peace to be established as soon as possible. At the meantime, she is worried about the results of peace talks. “We want peace, but with the preservation of human rights and values. I am concerned that the values people have fought for over the years might be ignored and the presence of the Taliban in the government might withdraw people’s freedom”, said Mrs. Ibrahimkhil.
According to Mrs. Ibrahimkhel, the main victims of Taliban’s politics are women, but she believes that the international community’s efforts are now focused on ending the war in Afghanistan, and therefore protecting women’s rights and the achievements of the people is not one of their priorities which is concerning.
She added that although the Taliban officials say their policies have changed compared to the past, she is concerned about the situation of women after the peace talks. “I asked a Taliban spokesman about their position on the presence of women in artistic activities, and he replied that they would accept women’s freedom in accordance with Sharia law”, said Mrs. Ibrahimkhil.
Mrs. Ibrahimkhil who has won several medals and awards for her work, including “Brave Women Award” said that Afghan women, especially female journalists must always defend their rights against any pressure. They should not betray their profession because of personal benefits. She believes that journalists should understand the precarious situation, and make the voices of the victims of the war heard by the government and those who are involved in deciding the fate of the people.