American Journalists Set the Story Straight on Afghanistan
In a break with the status quo, a number of
American journalists have begun to speak about Afghanistan in an open and
unbiased manner. The journalists, most of whom have made extended visits to the
country, are refuting the misinformation that is regularly spread by the
international media. They include Mike Hoover, a producer for the CBS television
network, and Cindy Law, a freelance female reporter who recently took a
month-long trip to Afghanistan. Both are working on documentary films and gave
interviews to the Voice of America's Pashto language service.
Hoover has been fascinated with Afghanistan for
years and made frequent visits there during the Jihâd against the Soviets,
described his dismay when the factional fighting began in Kabul after the
collapse of the Communist regime. Then, when the Taliban took power and peace
was restored, the Western press quickly turned against Afghanistan and the smear
campaign against the Taliban started. Hoover started to find out more, but, as
"I could never find anything where the Taliban
tell us what their thoughts are and what they are really doing. It was just
other people talking about them without them ever speaking out. After talking to
a couple of people who were over there and had exactly the opposite opinion of
the Taliban, it seemed to me that it might be good for CBS to go over there to
see for itself, to hear from Taliban about who they are and what they are trying
to do, and to observe whether their goals are implemented or are just political
The journalists says that before going to
Afghanistan, he half-suspected that the reports that permeate the Western media
might be true. But those suspicions were forgotten upon his arrival on Afghan
soil. The first thing that he noticed and was surprised by was that there were
no weapons and no armed men.
Hoover spent a month in the country, traveling
from Kandahar to Kabul. He refuted the Western image of the Taliban as being
ignorant. He saw them as being fully aware of both Afghan and world politics.
"When you speak to them on any subject, you
realize how bright these guys are. It was surprising….you would learn that the
guy you were talking to was only 26 years old when you thought you were talking
to someone with the wisdom of a fifty year-old. I was very impressed." Hoover
He said that all those that he met there during
his trip, whether young or old, were extremely happy about the security
"People were happy that there was security,
that there was no rocketing, that there was safety, that you didn't have any
worries about crime as you did before."
When asked about the Taliban's harshness, he
said, "On certain things, the Taliban are very strict…..I think it is fair. If
you commit a crime, you will be punished for it. The punishment is, in my view,
fair and swift."
Hoover was surprised by the fact that there is
no formality, no red tape in Afghanistan-any one can see the ministers to hand
in his petition or idea, and it will be acted upon swiftly. He said that the
ministers that he saw didn't even look like ministers. They were dressed in the
same way as the average person, and some even wore old clothes and well-worn
shoes. One thing that Hoover saw everywhere and was bothered by was the poverty
and hardship, which has been compounded by UN sanctions. He deplored the twisted
logic of the sanctions, saying:
"They destroyed their own country fighting the
Soviets. They fought bravely. And now, instead of helping them or at least
leaving them alone to rebuild, the world is imposing sanctions on them."
Hoover said that he hopes that other
journalists and officials travel to Afghanistan with open minds to see the
reality and analyze the situation themselves. People must not let themselves be
deceived by biased second-hand information, he stated. If the truth was
revealed, he said, then he is certain that the sanctions will be dropped and
that, instead of confrontation with the Taliban, the world would help them.
Hoover's comments are echoed by Law, who said that she had heard all sorts of
things about Afghanistan, especially about the Taliban's treatment of women, so
she decided go to the country to see for herself. Law spent more than a week in
Kandahar and three weeks in Kabul, speaking to women from all walks of life,
including female doctors and nurses. She said that while they had many concerns,
the burqa (veil) was not one of them.
"Their major concerns, I would have to say,
were the sanctions and war. All Afghans pleaded for the United States and the
United Nations to end the sanctions and help rebuild their country. They also
asked for medical, food, and financial aid."
Afghan women told Law that their first need,
after economic assistance, is education for their children. In regards to female
education, Law said that she saw some school for girls in homes, especially in
Kandahar, and girls studying in mosques.
"Taliban officials assured Law that once the
war is over, they would turn their attention to the many issues facing the
nation, including women's education and employment. She said that she saw work
already beginning on some girl's schools in Kandahar."
Scoffing at the misconception held by many that
Afghan women are prisoners in their homes, Law stated, "There are many women
working in the hospitals and health care, and they comprise most of the women
that I talked to. And I saw women walking around in the markets." Law said that
the world must realize that Afghanistan has been devastated by two decades of
war, and that its infrastructure has been destroyed. She added that the
international concern about the plight of Afghan women is to be appreciated,
"I think the best way to help the women of
Afghanistan is to encourage the removal of sanctions. They are hurting the
Afghan people, especially the women. And more humanitarian aid should be
provided- medical, economic, etc."
Other American media outlets are also
challenging the propaganda campaign that is being waged against the Islâmic
Emirate. The San Jose (California) Mercury, a daily newspaper, published
comments made by a female Muslim student leader, Sara Azad, who said:
"The fact is, women in Afghanistan are now
protected and their rights are guaranteed. Because no right comes before the
right to life, and today they have that right." Azad added that she receives
letters from her grandmother in Afghanistan, who writes that Afghan women have
never felt safer than they do now.
This was originally posted on the
Taliban's official website (This article was before Sept 11th)