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Afghan Journalists in Exile: Struggling for Survival in Pakistan

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Afghan Journalists in Exile: Struggling for Survival in Pakistan

Samiullah Jahesh, a former journalist with Afghanistan’s Ariana News TV channel, faced a harrowing dilemma after fleeing to Pakistan: sell his kidney to feed his family or endure hunger. With no income for over a year, Jahesh’s plight echoes that of many exiled Afghan journalists, trapped in a limbo of uncertainty and fear.

Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands have fled, including numerous journalists escaping the regime’s crackdown on independent media. While some found refuge in Western nations, those stranded in Pakistan face increasingly dire circumstances. Unable to secure jobs due to work authorization issues, their visas are expiring amid sluggish resettlement processes. Pakistan’s recent imposition of stricter movement restrictions and deportations exacerbates their plight, with over 1,100 Afghans already sent back, according to reports.

Lacking signatory status to the U.N. refugee convention, Pakistan disregards international norms, endangering the lives of Afghan journalists at risk from the Taliban’s hostility toward media freedom. Many struggle to renew visas, facing exorbitant fees and bureaucratic delays that leave them vulnerable to exploitation and harassment. Living in constant fear of detention or deportation, they are forced into hiding, further exacerbating the toll on their mental health.

Ahmad Quraishi, executive director of the Afghanistan Journalists Center, highlighted the urgency of prioritizing the resettlement of at-risk journalists, urging embassies to expedite their applications. However, the reality on the ground remains bleak for many.

Ahmad Ferooz Esar, a former journalist with Arezo TV and Mitra TV, recounted a terrifying encounter with Pakistani authorities, illustrating the constant threat faced by Afghan exiles. Detained without explanation and subjected to extortion, Esar and his wife now live in fear, evading further persecution.

Khatera Ahmadi, once a news presenter with TOLONews, shared her struggles in adapting to life in Pakistan, where freedom of movement is restricted, and basic necessities are out of reach. Despite international recognition of her plight, she remains trapped in a cycle of uncertainty and fear.

Medina Kohistani, another exiled journalist, echoed these sentiments, describing heightened anxiety among Afghan refugees as they navigate a hostile environment where even basic rights are denied.

Ahmad, who chose to remain anonymous, shed light on the pervasive corruption that plagues the visa renewal process, leaving many journalists vulnerable to exploitation and further endangering their safety.

A father of three, also speaking anonymously, lamented the lack of educational opportunities for Afghan children in Pakistan, adding another layer of hardship to their already precarious existence.

Despite repeated attempts to seek comment, Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior remained silent on the allegations of bribery and mistreatment leveled against its authorities.

In the face of such adversity, Afghan journalists in Pakistan find themselves trapped in a relentless cycle of fear and uncertainty, with no clear path to safety or stability.

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