Afghan refugee and journalist in Halifax fears for those who couldn’t escape
An Afghan refugee and journalist who recently arrived in Halifax is happy to have a safe place to live, but he can’t help but think about his friends and colleagues who are suffering in his home country.
Mahboob Elahi Mahzooz, 32, with his wife and two children, arrived in Halifax earlier this month, along with around 100 other refugees fleeing violence and unrest in Afghanistan.
Mahzooz, who had worked since 2018 as a foreign news reporter for a television station covering NATO conferences in Kabul, said his work made him a target.
âSometimes I had exclusive interviews with foreign diplomats, ambassadors, based in Kabul,â he said in a recent interview with Global News.
“It was interesting, but full of risk.”
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Even before the Taliban took power in August, journalism in Afghanistan was risky work.
On a mission in 2019, Mahzooz visited an air base with an American general to work on a story. It was his first time in a helicopter, and he took photos and posted them on social media.
“After that, I received many threats: threats to be an assistant to US forces, to NATO forces,” he said.
“I was frustrated but I did not give up on these claims because all the claims about me were without merit and without merit.”
As his reporting continued to endanger him, he said that a source he met on the job helped him evacuate Afghanistan on August 13 this year, two days before the fall of Kabul. .
From there, he spent time in Qatar, Germany and Kosovo before finally landing in Halifax earlier this month.
âIt was a long journey, full of ups and downs,â he said.
“They are suffering a lot”
Now, staying safely in a Halifax hotel with his family, Mahzooz worries for the lives of journalists in Afghanistan – and anyone who hasn’t had a chance to escape.
âI am safe, in one of the safest countries in the world, but things at home make me sad. Even sometimes I shed tears, âhe said.
âMy colleagues who worked in the same department as me, my journalist colleagues, they are suffering a lot. Some of them were arrested and tortured and held in custody for some time.
As Global News previously reported, the Taliban, seeking international help and recognition, have tried to show a friendly face to foreign journalists. Mahzooz said this had not been the case for Afghan journalists working in the field.
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He said many of his colleagues have lost their jobs and are struggling to survive during the country’s economic crisis.
“They are suffering the most difficult situation of their life and they are in very difficult conditions now,” he said.
According to the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, 40 percent of Afghan media have shut down and more than 80 percent of women journalists have lost their jobs since the Taliban takeover. About 50 percent of male journalists have also lost their jobs.
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Even those who have managed to keep their jobs face ongoing security challenges. Mahzooz said some of his colleagues were arrested and their equipment was broken while they were working.
Additionally, they fear writing or posting online about their struggles for fear of retaliation.
âFreedom of expression and freedom of the media are violated. ” he said. “The media have no freedom.”
As the threat from the Taliban no longer hangs over him, Mahzooz speaks out to raise awareness of the conditions Afghan journalists face at home.
Before speaking to Global, Mahzooz said he reached out to some of his friends to let them know he had an interview.
âBelieve me, they cried,â he said. “They cried and said to me, ‘Mahboob, please raise your voice to (us) evacuate.'”
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He said he would continue to speak on their behalf to try to get more Afghan journalists to safety.
In the meantime, Mahzooz and his family are settling into their new life in Canada. They are busy completing their papers and finding permanent accommodation and employment.
âRight now Halifax is a good option for me as well as for my family,â he said. âThey love the place here, the tours, the markets and the shops. Totally, the whole environment.
Jennifer Watts, CEO of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, the organization that helps settle new refugees, said she recently had the chance to meet Mahzooz and was touched by his story.
âIt’s a very compelling story,â she said.
âLike many refugees around the world – and certainly the special situation of refugees leaving Afghanistan – these are very difficult and heartbreaking stories of having to leave under very difficult conditions and leaving family and friends behind. them.”
Watts said it was common for refugees the organization works with to be sad about what continues to happen in their home countries.
âA lot of times you can’t do anything and yet you know the situation your family and friends are living in, and you hear it all the time on the news, and that just creates an extra layer of stress when you’re trying to get over it. move to a new country, âshe said.
âYou are very grateful to be here, knowing that you have this opportunity where others do not, to live in safety. “
This can have “quite a big impact” on their mental health, she said, noting that ISANS offers a number of supports to refugees, including employee wellness and stress reduction programs. trained in trauma-informed approaches and initiatives to connect refugees to their new communities.
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Watts said it is important for people living in a safe country like Canada to listen to the stories of refugees – if they are comfortable enough to share them – in order to better understand their experiences.
âThe stories refugees tell us are very, very important, and it is important that we are prepared to take the time to listen to them,â she said.
“It helps us understand what responsibilities we have in the world to support people who are going through difficult situations, but also to gain our own appreciation for a lot of the things we have here.”
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