On October 27, 2022, the Pulitzer Center spoke with grantees Amie Ferris-Rotman and Zahra Joya, who co-led an investigative reporting team on “Far From Home.” The TIME magazine cover story profiled women who were forced to flee Afghanistan and seek asylum around the world after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.
After the fall of Kabul, tens of thousands of Afghans were forced to flee their homes and the lives they had built there for new beginnings abroad. Among these refugees were the women profiled in “Far From Home,” who migrated to Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S.
Ferris-Rotman is a British-American journalist who was previously the Reuters senior correspondent in Afghanistan. There, she started Sahar Speaks, a training, mentoring, and publishing program for Afghan female reporters. She is now the global news editor at New Lines Magazine, and has also held positions at The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and The Wall Street Journal.
Joya is an Afghan journalist who founded Rukhshana Media, Afghanistan’s first women's news agency, to give a voice to Afghan women domestically and globally. She is a TIME magazine Woman of the Year and the winner of the Gates Foundation’s 2022 Changemaker Award, one of four Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She was airlifted out of Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul, and is now leading Rukhshana from exile in London.
Through an ambitious cross-border collaboration with Rukhshana Media on the ground in Afghanistan and with an all-female team of journalists and photographers around the globe, Ferris-Rotman and Joya sought to tell the stories of the women who escaped, but are now mourning their homeland and grappling with new identities.
“That [collaboration] was key. Especially after the nature of that war, and 20 years of Western involvement there, having Afghan women reporting on Afghan women’s lives [was] super important and made it so much better than if you just had the usual suspects of foreigners reporting on it,” Ferris-Rotman said.
The discussion was moderated by Pulitzer Center Editorial Intern Grace Jensen, who has previously interviewed Ferris-Rotman and Joya on their reporting process. Mikaela Schmitt, the program coordinator for the Campus Consortium and Outreach team at the Pulitzer Center, organized the event.
Joya also spoke about how she understands the Afghan diaspora on a personal level after she was forced to leave her home, live in a hotel with other refugees, and seek asylum in the U.K. She spoke about how she hopes to amplify the voices of female refugees.
“Most of the media focused on the war and the political situation, and all the political conflict, but it is very nice if we [can] amplify the voice of women,” she said. “By [doing] this project, we showed that when you give an opportunity to Afghan female journalists especially, they have the capacity to do this job. Of course, whatever steps of our life, we can’t do it [alone]. We need support, we need solidarity. So when TIME magazine and Rukhshana Media, and the Pulitzer Center did this, it was like a kind of solidarity with Afghan female journalists and Afghan refugees as well. We are amplifying their voice, we give them a chance, a platform to talk together, to say what they want. And if you give a platform [for women] to say ‘I am missing my country,’ it’s huge. It says a lot for [people] abroad to see what is going on in Afghanistan.”
After the moderated Q&A, Ferris-Rotman and Joya answered questions from the audience.