“Americans didn’t understand how complex Afghanistan was when they arrived,” begins Afghan journalist, Mortaza Behboudi, as he attempts to explain the impact American and international forces had on Afghanistan in the past 20 years. Kubra Khademi, Afghan artist in exile in France, agrees adding that the West has ruined Afghanistan twice over in the past two decades.
She feels so strongly about this sentiment that she supplemented her views with a showing of her latest film, Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Hot Season, during an event at the DISSIDENT club, titled: “Afghanistan: Post US Withdrawal”. The film is an allegory for the relationship between the US and Afghanistan portrayed through a submissive, abusive, and violent sexual relationship between an American man and a Taliban leader.
The intellectual cafe and bar in Paris with the goal of connecting dissidents also showed Behboudi’s latest journalistic interviews of the difficult life of Mina Rezaee. Rezaee is the owner of a feminist coffee shop, Simple, in Kabul with the goal of empowering women through creating a safespace for them to freely hangout while wearing the clothes of their choice. Behboudi’s interview portrayed all the hardships Rezaee faces including abandonment from her own father and threats from the Taliban. He believes her fate, along with that of many Afghan women who have enjoyed basic human rights such as the right to work and education under American protection will soon be quashed when they leave the country and the Taliban regain control of territory. Behboudi tells the crowd at the DISSIDENT club that his sources believe the Taliban already control 80% of the country. The second reportage he played demonstrated the threat that former local interpreters of the French army face in Afghanistan. The piece documents one Afghan interpreter of the French army who has been rejected for political asylum three times by the French government despite receiving constant death threats for helping the West during the 20 year-long war.
Unfortunately, Khademi adds, this phenomenon is common to interpreters for many Western armies including the British, Canadian, and American armies with their lives becoming increasingly more dangerous as these armies pull their troops and protection out of Afghanistan. In her opinion, even the United Nations is no help adding, “even the UN is a jest. The UN is just composed of these countries making war.”
Despite the dire situation, they have not given up on a hopeful future. Through Behboudui’s work, he has come across an orphanage funded by a philanthropic Afghan whose money, he stressed, is independent of any government. Besides feeding and housing orphans, the orphanage also educates Afghan children for free, which is essential. Khademi agrees that expansive education is important for Afghanistan’s future, placing her hope in the number of meritocratic university scholarships that have increased since her time at Kabul University. The higher levels of literacy, that both believe will increase in the future, and the current rate of educated peoples, makes the duo believe that Afghans will not embrace Taliban rule as easily as they did 29 years ago at the end of the Afghan Civil War.
The two finished off the night with a plea to the journalistic world. They want international media to stop making Taliban appear as legitimate stakeholders in Afghanistan. Reporting on the Taliban gives them power; this is how “war reporters make war,” Behboudui explains. Instead, Behboudui and Khademi urge global citizens to promote success stories of ordinary Afghans and not give constant attention to the Taliban.