The first female Afghan journalist to interview a member of the Taliban says she's been forced to leave her country behind. Beheshta Arghand, formerly of TOLO News, fled Afghanistan as part of the US-led evacuation on Aug. 24 and is now in Qatar, per the Guardian. Arghand had spoken with a senior Taliban official live on TV on Aug. 17, after he showed up uninvited at her TV station. "I lost my control," thinking he might ask why she was there, Arghand tells Reuters. Instead, he asked to be interviewed. "[Luckily] I always wear long clothes in the studio because we have different people with different minds," says Arghand, variously described as 22 to 24 years old.
The interview was "a propaganda coup for the Taliban," suggesting a tolerance for women's rights, per the Guardian. Then the Taliban ordered TOLO News to require all women to wear a hijab and began suspending female anchors at other TV stations. This follows several reports of the Taliban targeting female professionals. The Taliban "don't accept" women, "don't accept you as a human," Arghand says. She adds the group also demanded media end all discussions of their takeover and rule. "When you can't [even] ask easy questions, how can you be a journalist?"
Two days after interviewing the Taliban official, Arghand spoke with Malala Yousafzai, the activist who survived an attempted assassination by a Pakistani Taliban gunman in 2012, in what was touted as Yousafzai's first Afghan TV interview, per CNN. Shortly after, Arghand asked the Nobel Prize winner for help in fleeing Afghanistan. It was Yousafzai who secured Arghand a spot on Qatar's list of evacuees, allowing her and family members to board a Qatari Air Force flight on Aug. 24. Footage has since surfaced of gun-wielding Taliban soldiers standing behind the host of a political debate TV program as he tells Afghans not to be afraid. "This is what a political debate now looks like on Afghan TV," tweeted BBC correspondent Yalda Hakim. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)