Afghan Women Rebuild Their Lives ‘Far From Home’
This week marked one year since Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban, ending America’s longest war. Dozens of female activists were detained by the Taliban over the weekend as women took to the streets in protest, in the kind of demonstration that has become more rare under Taliban rule.
For many Afghan women and girls who were forced to flee or were left behind, the Taliban takeover represented the end of the freedoms of the past two decades. Many in the next generation are too young to remember the Taliban’s repressive rule, with nearly two-thirds of the country’s population under 25 years old.
In a front-page cover story for TIME, in partnership with Rukhshana Media, an Afghan media organization led by women, grantees Zahra Joya and Amie Ferris-Rotman spent months with eight Afghan women who are attempting to build new lives abroad one year later in Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In Afghanistan, these women were activists, educators, psychologists, pilots, and mothers. Now scattered around the world and unsure of when they could return home, they long for their homeland and their loved ones, and mourn the loss of freedoms that reverberates across their nation and several generations.
"After leaving, I dream I am still in Afghanistan. In my dreams I am running, I am protesting; every night I am there," says Basira, a 24-year-old activist now campaigning for the rights of the Afghan LGBTI community from Dublin, Ireland.
The women are wrestling with new identities, spending their days learning new languages and new roles. In the case of pilots Hasina Najibi and Raihana Rahimi, that means exchanging their Afghan air force uniforms for restaurant aprons. Now waiting tables in Fort Myers, Florida, they dream of one day returning to the skies.
"We are all warriors. Not because we are at war, but because we are fighting to survive,” says Batool Haidari, a 36-year-old psychologist and sex therapist who returned to Afghanistan after Kabul’s fall to save her thesis, her proudest achievement. She now works tirelessly from Rome, finding escape routes for others at risk, especially women activists and trans people.
Read the stories of these incredible women in Far From Home, and explore many years of Pulitzer Center reporting on Afghanistan here.
The Brazilian government continues to field criticism and international attention following the publication of a collaboration between RIN Fellows Hyury Potter and Manuela Andreoni on illegal airstrips associated with extractive activities in the Amazon. Their reports were published in The New York Times as “The Illegal Airstrips Bringing Toxic Mining to Brazil’s Indigenous Land” and in The Intercept Brasil as “The Airstrips of Destruction.” The Fellows used hundreds of high-resolution satellite images and in-depth research into illegal mining interests in Brazil, as well as work with data scientists, to map 1,269 airstrips with no official records. They determined that 362 of them are within a 20-kilometer radius of illegal mining areas.
On Monday, August 15, O Globo, one of the top newspapers in Brazil, published an editorial criticizing federal inaction following these discoveries. Andreoni also spoke with ABC News about the investigation, and a full Portuguese translation of her story was also published for readers in Brazil by Folha de S. Paulo.
The Pulitzer Center went live on Twitter on Thursday, August 11, to talk about investigating rainforest destruction. You can listen to the recording in Portuguese here. Brazilian social media influencer @Filiril also posted playful Instagram Reels and TikToks bringing awareness of illegal mining practices in the Amazon to new audiences. Varied responses via different platforms convey the appeal and potency of the project. “We are achieving audiences from different ages, from very young to older ones,” said Andreoni.
This message first appeared in the August 19, 2022, edition of the Pulitzer Center's weekly newsletter. Subscribe today.
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