Rahel Saya is an Afghan activist and journalist who fled Afghanistan thanks to an international rescue operation; she is in Italy for some weeks. She criticized the Talibans especially for their behaviour regarding women and children rights and she suffered great risks for that. Here the interview we had.
It’s been some weeks since you arrived in Italy. How are you finding life here?
I have been in Italy for about six weeks. I finally arrived in Italy on a tortuous journey.
I had to leave Afghanistan, the country where I was born and educated, and I think it will take a long time to find life here, everything has to start from the beginning. Life, language, lessons, and all things that matter in a person's life must be restarted.
Can you tell us something about your experience as a journalist in Afghanistan? You risked a lot for your criticism of the Taliban. How did you find the courage?
Since we know that the voice of a reporter is the voice of the people of the society, I wanted to be the voice of my people, especially the voice of Afghan women and children and tell the truth to everyone. Yes I took the risk, but because I loved my job and activities, I never gave up and I will never give up.
Did you arrive in Italy through an international rescue operation. Would you like to tell us the moments of your escape?
I was able to leave Afghanistan through an international rescue operation, many people helped me to leave Afghanistan and I will never forget the great cooperation they did for me. I left Afghanistan, but I will never forget the bad events and memories from the time of the arrival of the Taliban until the night I went to the airport, even if I want to. The days I spent at home, the days when my mother prayed for me day and night, shedding tears and comforting me. Yes, she was more than a mother in my life, like an angel, and I owe her kindness. When I went to the airport, the situation was worse than what I had seen and heard in the news, all the people were waiting for days behind the gates of the airport to leave Afghanistan. I saw the women and the children and I was heartbroken by all that bad situation. I never wanted to see my country like this.
I was upset about why this should happen and why we were born in a country called Afghanistan. I agree that there are problems in every country, in every world and even in every family, but the problems and the bad situation in Afghanistan have become a kind of life for the people of this country.
Are you still in contact with the Afghan journalists left in Kabul? What news do you have?
Yes, many civil society activists and journalists remain in Kabul, and they continue to misinterpret the situation. They are still resisting and fighting, they still want to inform, but there is no guarantee that they will return home safe, and that is a big danger.
Freedom is being able to choose for oneself. What would you say to those who want to “help” Muslim women by choosing for them, “freeing” them, for example, from the veil?
Equality, freedom and respect, until women in Afghanistan acquire these three components, they will have no chance to live a dignified life. Everyone should know that Afghan women have equal rights with other sections of society so that they are not ignored, only in the shadow of freedom. So that women can raise their voices to the world and voice their demands, human dignity means the presence of women and their share in life interactions.
What do Afghan women really need now?
Afghan women need support and cooperation, they need the lights on, they need human rights associations and governmental and non-governmental organizations to support them and do something for them.
Do you feel a responsibility in this moment when you have the opportunity to give a voice to those who do not have it? What do you feel most urgent to say?
From here, I will continue to work as the voice of the people and an honest and true servant, and I will continue to be the voice of women. What needs to be said is that the future of women in Afghanistan is by no means clear. Taliban will not change overnight and will hardly gain any points. Their goal is to keep women at home, not send them to school or work. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the international community not to leave Afghanistan and not to let the Taliban break all our dreams and aspirations.
Joshua Evangelista and Helena Savoldelli