Women’s Day Special: Zahra Joya Who Took Taliban by Pen

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On International women’s day, the Newster brings you the story of a women who wrestled the all-mighty Taliban with pen.


Women’s Day Special: Zahra Joya Who Took Taliban by Pen
Zahra Joya (Photo: Kristina Varaksina for TIME)

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August last years, disturbing reports over the functioning of the country is unfolding, especially that pertaining to women residing in the country that is run by all men.

According to the multiple reports, since taking power of city of Ghazni on August 12, 2021, just days before entering Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, the Taliban have imposed rights-violating policies that have created significant barriers to women’s and girls’ health and education, limited freedom of movement, expression, and association, and deprived many of earned income.

Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, a core faculty member of SJSU’s Human Rights Institute says that women are stuck between Taliban abuses and foreign community activities that force Afghans further into despair on a daily basis.

Given the deplorable situation of women in Afghanistan, the role of women centric journalism is imperative and that is where our woman here comes in. Zahra Joya, founder of Rukshana media that reports on the issues that affect women residing in Afghanistan, particularly when the Taliban took over of Afghanistan.

Starting with the name Rukhsana media, the news organization says that the name was picked to honor the 19-year-old girl women who was brutally killed at the hand of a group of men (read Taliban) who hurled stones till she breathed her last in Ghalmeen village outside the capital of the central Afghan province of Ghor for allegedly eloping with a man of her choice other than the man whom she was forcibly married. The incident took place in the year of 2015.

On International women’s day, the Newster brings you the story of a women who wrestled the all-mighty Taliban with pen.
A video still of men stoning a woman in Ghor province, Afghanistan.

“Our newsroom is named Rukhshana in her memory and to remind ourselves of the depth of gender inequality in Afghanistan, where women are killed over trying to make decisions about their bodies and their private lives. By naming our newsroom Rukhshana, we want every time someone says or hears our name, they remember her and her tragic death at the hands of fanatic Mullahs who still live in impunity”, says Zahra Joya’s Rukshana media.

Due to the Taliban’s stance on women, Zahra was critical of the Taliban and reported on their crackdown on female public officials in the months before the US and its allies withdrew their forces.

A few days before the nation fell to the Taliban, Zahra cooperated with British news organisation the Guardian to produce women centric reports in Afghanistan.  Joya and her colleagues got a lot of threats as a result of their reporting.

Joya became a Taliban target as a result of her critical reporting on the Taliban. She chose to flee the nation as she was scared for her life. The British government issued an evacuation notice to her, and she was subsequently evacuated to London. She continues to run Rukhshana Media and maintains contacts with her colleague, who secretly send her information from Afghanistan. Following the takeover, the majority of female Afghan journalists were compelled to quit their jobs.

By the time she launched Rukhshana media with her own money in December 2020, she was also working as the Kabul city government’s deputy director of communications. “I wanted to show that women – especially women from an ethnic minority like me – could be active in public life”, the Guardian quoted Joya.

Joya, who was born in 1992 in a small remote town in Bamyan province, is a member of the Hazara community, the most of whom are Shia Muslims who have long been oppressed by the Taliban.

On International women’s day, the Newster brings you the story of a women who wrestled the all-mighty Taliban with pen.
Joya, at the age of eight, disguised as a boy to attend to school.

She established Rukhshana, Afghanistan’s first feminist news agency, where local female journalists reported on the realities of life of women and girls throughout the nation. The goal was to give a counternarrative to the Afghan media in general. There were radio stations and TV channels established by or for women around the country, but her goal was for Rukhshana to be the first national news source where an Afghan woman from any location of the country could see her own life mirrored in the stories being broadcasted every day.

Zahra Joya was just selected one of Time’s 2022 women of the year for her reporting on women’s life in Afghanistan through her news outlet, Rukhshana Media.

Joya was Angelina Jolie for Time’s Women of the Year issue, which also included human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Olympian Allyson Felix, and poet Amanda Gorman.

On International women’s day, the Newster brings you the story of a women who wrestled the all-mighty Taliban with pen.
TIME Magazine cover

Joya, now lives in London as a refugee an runs the Rukhsana Media with the help of her colleagueas in Afghanistan.


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