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Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador To Afghanistan Ryan Crocker; Interview With Acting Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani; Interview With Former Afghan Youth Representative To The U.N. Shkula Zadran; Interview With Committee to Protect Journalists President Jodie Ginsberg. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 15, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
As the Taliban celebrates one year since taking Kabul, we have a special program on Afghanistan. First, we get the latest with former U.S.
Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker. Then, a reminder about what the Taliban says it wants. Christiane's extraordinary interview with Deputy
Taliban Leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani. And, I'm joined by Afghanistan's former youth representatives to the U.N. She tells me how she feels about the
state of her country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHALID AHMADZAI, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: She told me that, I want to give you my son, but 16,000 Afghani.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: We revisit some of Christiane's reporting from Kabul, showing just how much the country is changing, and who is paying the price.
Also ahead, an assault on free speech and one of its most stalwart defenders. President of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Jodie
Ginsberg, discusses the attack on celebrated author, Salman Rushdie.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Today, the Taliban celebrates. Announcing a public holiday to mark the first anniversary since their return to power in Afghanistan. As they
congratulate themselves, the Afghan people may find little to rejoice. The Taliban is yet to run a fully functioning government, women's rights are
evaporating, and the economy took another blow today.
The Biden ministration announcing that it won't be releasing billions of dollars worth of frozen Afghan assets anytime soon. It's a life of death --
it's a life-or-death situation for many Afghans who face malnutrition. The U.N. warning that half the population faces acute in food insecurity.
So, today we take a closer look at the current state of play inside the country. We want to start by revisiting this piece from Christiane's recent
trip to Afghanistan where she witnesses the humanitarian crisis firsthand.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voiceover): Under a scorching sun, standing patiently for hours in organized lines, hundreds of
newly poor Afghans wait for their monthly handout. Men on one side, women on the other. Here, the U.N.'s World Food Programme is delivering cash
assistance. The equivalent of $43 per family. Khalid Ahmadzai is the coordinator. He says he's seen the need explode. And right from the start,
the stories are dire.
KHALID AHMADZAI, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: A few days ago, one woman came to me, and she told me that, I want to give you my son by 16,000 Afghani. Just
give me the Afghani. And he was -- she was really crying. That was the worst feeling that I had in my life.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Are you serious?
AHMADZAI: Yes, this is a serious thing that we, at the distribution at the first day. So, the hunger is too much high here.
AMANPOUR (on camera): You know, we have heard those stories, but I have never heard it from somebody who's actually seen it.
AHMADZAI: Yes. Yes. Yes, I have seen it. It's too much bad and it hurts me a lot.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Everyone we met is hurting. According to the International Rescue Committee, almost half the population of Afghanistan
lives on less than one meal a day. And the U.N. says nearly nine million people risk famine-like conditions. Fereshtah has five kids.
AMANPOUR (on camera): And how many meals per day can you eat?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): When you don't have money, she tells us, when you don't have a job, you don't have income, would you be able to eat proper
food when there's no work?
Khatima is a widow. They should let us work because we have to become the men of the family, so we can find bread for the children. None of my six
have shoes. And with 3,000 afghanis, what will I be able to do in six months' time?
AMANPOUR (on camera): You just want work.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): I have to work, she says.
At this WFP distribution site in Kabul, you do see women work working and women mostly with their faces uncovered. Outside, Taliban slogans plastered
over the blast walls tout victory over the Americans and claim to be of the people, for the people. But while security has improved since they took
over, the country is facing economic collapse.
And that shows up all over the tiny bodies that we've seen at Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital. It's the biggest in Afghanistan, now heaving under the
extra weight. Dr. Mohammad Yaqob Sharafat tells us that 20 to 30 percent of the babies in this neonatal ward are malnourished. Suddenly, he rushes to
the side of one who stopped breathing. For five minutes, we watched him pump his heart, until he comes back to life, but for how long? Even in the
womb, the deck stacked against them.
DR. MOHAMMAD YAQOB SHARAFAT, INDIRA GANDHI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: From one side, the mothers are not getting well nutritions.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Wow. So it's a triple whammy. The mothers aren't nourished enough. The mothers are nourish enough
AMANPOUR (on camera): The economy is bad.
AMANPOUR (on camera): They have too many children.
AMANPOUR (on camera): And they're overworking themselves.
SHARAFAT: So, all these factors together make the situations to they give birth to premature babies.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Because they're under sanctions, the Taliban are struggling to pay salaries. So the International Committee of the Red Cross
pays all the doctors and nurses at this hospital and at 32 others across the country. That's about 10,000 health workers in all.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Look at this child, he's two and a half years old.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): His name is Mohammed. He's malnourished.
AMANPOUR (on camera): How much food is she able to give her child at home? Why does he look like this?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): His mother says she's had nothing but breastmilk to feed him, but now can't afford enough to eat to keep producing even that.
It's the same for Shazia (ph). Her seven-month-old baby has severe pneumonia, but at least she gets fed here at the hospital, so that she can
breastfeed her daughter.
Back home, we don't have this kind of food she says. If we have food for lunch, we don't have anything for dinner.
AMANPOUR (on camera): While we're here, the electricity's gone out.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): It happens all the time, the director tells us. We watch a doctor carry on by the light of a mobile phone until the
electricity comes back. We end this day in the tiniest dwellings amongst the poorest of Kabul's poor. Waliullah and Basmina have six children. While
she prepares their meal of eggs, two small bowls of beans and two flatbreads, the eight and 10-year-old are out scavenging wastepaper to sell
and polishing shoes. It's their only income, since Waliullah injured his back and can no longer work as a laborer. He tells us their 10-month-old
baby is malnourished.
I always worry and stress about this, says Basmina. But she tells her kids, God will be kind to us one day. Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kabul,
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GOLODRYGA: That was so incredibly difficult to watch again but yet so important for the world to see the state of that country. Joining me now is
Ambassador Ryan Crocker. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan under President Barack Obama. He's also been named to the Afghan war commission
which will review U.S. involvement in that country. He joins me from Spokane in Washington State.
Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. So, a bit ironic here to have a national holiday being celebrated in Afghanistan after you see videos
like that and read statistics like this. The United Nations says 95 percent of Afghans are going hungry. Now, a year since the U.S. withdrawal, our
question to you is, what do you make of this? How do you feel about this given all the time and energy you have invested in that country? Was it
inevitable to come to this?
RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: Thanks for having me. And thanks for your interest. It is just heartbreaking seeing that footage
but as you pointed out, it's something we have to look at.
All the more heartbreaking because it's unnecessary. It didn't have to go this way. Back when I was ambassador in 2011 and 2012, we were seeing
stunning improvements in overall life expectancy. A decrease in incidents of mother and infant mortality. The country was tracking pretty well. And
now, it is completely off the trucks with the Afghan people, once again, paying the bill for decisions that are made elsewhere. Particularly a
decision to pull out completely that was made in Washington.
GOLODRYGA: I guess, you know, a counter question would be, what could a few thousand U.S. troops, having remaining there on the ground, have done
to not only protect those troops who were there, but also to protect women, children, and the country's economy overall?
CROCKER: Again, context is important. When I left Afghanistan in the summer of 2012, we had over 100,000 troops on the ground, as well as
substantial numbers from other NATO countries. Those numbers came down after that. And they came down very sharply to the point where, you know,
at the end of 2020, the beginning of 2021, we were down to maybe 3,000.
But you know what, even with that huge reduction in force, the Taliban still could not take and hold a single one of the Afghanistan's 34
provincial capitals. Why was that? I think largely because of the moral support, as well as the logistical support that we've been giving Afghan
security forces. As long as we were there, they would stand and fight. And they paid for that commitment, of course, by the tens of thousands of their
But once we said we were done, we saw the security forces of Afghanistan began to unravel. And that unraveling, of course, at warp speed again in
August of 2021. So, again, it didn't need to end this way. We just decided we didn't want to do it anymore. When we decided that, we emboldened the
Taliban, fatally demoralized Afghanistan security forces and we have we see today.
GOLODRYGA: But we should note that the withdrawal of U.S. forces is widely supported in the United States. Not necessarily with ambassadors like
yourself or folks in the military. But it was the withdrawal that has really caught the eye of both parties. We should honestly say.
But let's talk about this vicious cycle. One of the reasons behind that country is in a dire shape that it is right now, it's because it's being
cut off from any monetary assistance. The $7 billion in their own funding have been frozen. And the United States, just today, reiterating that they
don't trust the Taliban in allocating that money in distributing where it needs to go, and thus they will not be contributing that money today. And
the World Bank suspended some $600 million in aid back in March after the Taliban reneged on their commitment to allow girls to go to school.
So, how does this vicious cycle end? Because points are valid. The country can't be revived without any funding. And you can't necessarily blame the
International Community for withholding money when you can't trust the government.
CROCKER: There is a third way, and I think that we are already seeing that governments, like the U.S. and others from our NATO allies, are making
substantial funding available for humanitarian relief. We're doing it through the United Nations.
You mentioned -- Christiane mentioned, the World Food Programme, very active on the ground there. And one of the more effective specialized
agencies in the United Nation system is traditionally headed by an American as executive director. That is the case now. So, there are vehicles for
relief of the Afghans who so desperately need it. And we are making use of those vehicles, another very worthy organization that Christiane already
cited. International Committee of the Red Cross, we are their largest donor. And those donations are moving forward.
So, we have to find vehicles to help the people of Afghanistan, but not to help -- not to assist or help their murderous government, cares not at all
about the survival of the people as long as they are unhappy, which they largely are.
GOLODRYGA: Were you surprised that the United States found the leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in the center of Kabul just one year, not even
one year following the U.S. withdrawal?
CROCKER: Sadly, I was not surprised. The Taliban made it clear right from the beginning, after 9/11, that they would give up power in Afghanistan
before they would give up Al-Qaeda, and that's what they did. They were in the wilderness for 20 years because they stood by those who brought us
9/11. So, it was no surprise, sadly, to see that effectively the Taliban did but what signaled it would do. They're back and so is Al-Qaeda.
It is, obviously, a good thing that we were able to eliminate Zawahiri, but it shows two, I think very negative things.
That those of us who did not believe for a second that the Taliban would decisively break with Al-Qaeda, no matter what they said, sadly that is
true. And the other point is, we're not going to get an easy shot like that again. Zawahiri thought he had won, thought it was safe, thought that it
was OK to step out on that balcony at the same time, every single day.
GOLODRYGA: You mean with over the --
CROCKER: They made other --
GOLODRYGA: -- you mean with over the horizon counterterrorism measures that the president had suggested would be successful and would be the
method used going forward in addressing terrorism in that country.
CROCKER: Yes, that kind of operation is only possible if the target cooperates, which Zawahiri did much as Qasem Soleimani did in Iraq a couple
of years ago. The rest of the Al-Qaeda leadership is not going to make Zawahiri's mistake. So, we're going to be relying on much less rooted
intelligence than we had when we were on the ground.
Taliban -- the Taliban have shown us, yes indeed, they brought Al-Qaeda back. We did get the leader, that's a good thing, but it's going to be much
harder to identify, let alone target other (INAUDIBLE) that we have to ensue (ph) there.
GOLODRYGA: Though as many intelligence experts have noted that these terrorist organizations can regroup in other countries, not necessarily
Afghanistan. And it was interesting to see a new U.S. intel report out today that finds that Al-Qaeda has not reconstituted its presence in
Afghanistan. So, while al-Zawahiri was there, it doesn't appear that the group as a whole has been able to reconstitute itself and regroup, which is
a good thing.
But let me ask you about another report. And this is from the House Republican releasing a scathing report about the withdrawal from
Afghanistan last year. Describing it as a, "Complete lack and failure to plan." And here are some of the items that they've listed in their
investigation. Inadequate planning and lack of staffing. Only 36 States Department officials were there to process Afghan documents. Only one
consular officer for 3,444 evacuees.
And what most alarmed me was what Ambassador Kelley Currie, who was Ambassador-at-Large for the State Department's office for Global Women's
Issues under the Trump administration wrote, she said, we now know through data from the Department of State and Homeland Security that only
approximately 25 percent of those evacuated during the NECO, that's a noncombatant execution operation in Afghanistan were women or girls. To put
this figure in context, historically, women and girls represent more than half of emergency refugee outflows. What is your response to this report?
CROCKER: There is a great deal of blame to go around in that report, the report you cite. It delivers an enormous amount of it on the Biden
administration which it deserves. But this did not start with President Biden. It started with President Trump --
CROCKER: -- who made the decision that we would withdraw all of our forces, go down to zero, open negotiations directly with the Taliban
without including the Afghan government that completely delegitimized that government. It reminded me as nothing so much as the Paris peace talks that
brought an end to the Vietnam war with a North Vietnamese victory.
We played the same script. That was not a withdrawal, it was a route. The awful scenes we all saw at the Kabul Airport. Desperate Afghans falling to
their death from wheelwells of the C-17s. And certainly, among those that we left behind, the ones on -- for whom we did not deliver what we promised
would be half the population, the girls and the women of Afghanistan. We're seeing what they're going through now with the educational steps that the
Taliban has taken to deprive them of their education, that is only going to get worse.
GOLODRYGA: Well, as you know, correctly, this was a fate sealed by President Trump, that the Biden administration did not proceed in this
investigation. They have said that has been cherry-picked and said that we have provided over 150 briefings to members and staff on Afghanistan since
the NEO covering a wide range of topics. But let me finally ask you then about their own investigation. You've been named to the Afghan war
commission, what is the status of that commission?
CROCKER: The Afghanistan War Commission was established by Congress at the end of last year, 2021. The commission is not yet up and running. So, I
can't really talk about how it is going to run or how will be organized, that is yet to come.
But it was Congress itself on a bipartisan basis that established the commission.
GOLODRYGA: Well, please do keep us posted. We will continue to follow the story and the fate of that country and much more than just this one-year
anniversary. Ambassador, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
CROCKER: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, coming up after the break, we revisit Christiane's exclusive interview with a top Taliban official who still has an FBI bounty
on his head.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. The war in Afghanistan goes back to 2001 when the U.S. invaded, targeting Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, one of the
masterminds behind 9/11 who had enjoyed sanctuary under Taliban rule. His successor Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike by American forces
in downtown Kabul just two weeks ago. Now, despite the Taliban swearing their country would not be used again as a base for terrorist groups.
We want to bring you now an excerpt of Christiane's exclusive interview with Sirajuddin Haqqani, a top Taliban official and one of the FBI's most
wanted. She started by asking him about the fundamental issue of Afghan girls' return to school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Many times, I have spoken occasionally to Taliban leaders, even back in the 1990s, and they told me something similar, that it will take
time. And yet it never happened. Do you believe that young girls, secondary schoolgirls, will be allowed to go to school here in Afghanistan?
SIRAJUDDIN HAQQANI, ACTING AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): I would like to provide some clarification. There is no one who opposes
education for women. And, already, girls are allowed to go to school up to grade six. And above that grade, the work is continuing on a mechanism. You
may have heard that this is not opposed at the level of leadership or the Cabinet. But the issue has been postponed until further notice.
In the declaration provided by the Ministry of Education, there were some shortcoming within the preparation that were ongoing. Work is ongoing on
those issues. Through this interview and news channel, I am assuring that there is no one opposed to education, only that work has started on the
AMANPOUR: Could you tell us when you think that will happen? I know there has been a big meeting in Kandahar with your supreme leader, Mr.
Akhundzada. Can you tell me whether any decisions were made over these past few days?
HAQQANI (through translator): What I am saying to you is that, very, soon, you will hear very good news about this issue, God willing. We will specify
the time on the arrangement that has been provided by the leadership. Work is ongoing on that. And you will hear very good news soon.
AMANPOUR: Can I just get it very clear? Does your government accept that women need to work? It's half the population. You are in dire, dire
financial stress. Women have the right to work under Islam and before you came here. You want to be known as a government for everyone, a legitimate
government. Do you accept that women have the right to work?
HAQQANI (through translator): Yes, within their own framework.
AMANPOUR: Which means what, in their own framework? Can they be lawyers? Can they be judges? Can they run for Parliament, like they used to? I know
they're working in hospitals. I know there's some teachers working. I know they're working in civil service and in your -- in your ministry. But many
tell us that they feel that the Taliban wants them to stay at home. And they're afraid of some of the edicts that has a very chilling effect.
HAQQANI (through translator): We keep naughty women at home.
AMANPOUR: OK, you need to explain that joke, because people will think that's official policy. And maybe it is. What does that mean, naughty?
HAQQANI (through translator): What I am saying is that the international community is raising the issue of women's rights a lot. Here in
Afghanistan, there are Islamic, national, cultural and traditional principles. Within the limit of those principles, we are working to provide
them with opportunities to work. And that is our goal. By saying naughty women, it was a joke referring to those naughty women who are controlled by
some other sides to bring the current government into question.
AMANPOUR: You are still called an acting government, an interim government. And when you first came in, you said that we would agree on a
new inclusive political system in which the voice of every Afghan is reflected and where no Afghan feels excluded. That's from what you wrote.
But that hasn't happened. There is no movement towards bringing in other political parties, to bring in other members of the, I don't know, previous
government, different ethnicities, different parts. You know what I'm saying? Is there -- are there any elections planned? Will there be a
Parliament? What is this country going to look like? Will there be democracy?
HAQQANI (through translator): About inclusivity, I said earlier that, if the transition of power had happened in a peaceful manner, a lot of
challenge would not have existed. Here, blood was used to abandon the Afghan society in an environment of mistrust. By inclusivity, if we are
referring to the inclusion of people in the government from Afghanistan's different ethnicities and tribes, that has already been implemented.
But those officials who were part of the previous regime, for us, gaining their trust and ensuring their security was more important than including
them in the new government. We have been working to build trust among those people. But the decision to replace the current acting government with a
permanent independent one lies with our leadership to make and depends on our relations on international economic and security levels.
AMANPOUR: Will there be elections for a new -- for the permanent government?
HAQQANI: It is a premature question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And there is still no indication of elections for the Taliban's interim governments.
Still to come tonight, brave Afghan women protest life under Taliban rule. We look at the restricted rights of women since the fall of Kabul.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, it's no surprise that women and girls do indeed bear the brunt of the Taliban's return to power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: A rare women's protest on Saturday met with the sound of rifles. Their demands, food, work, and freedom. Obviously, that was too
much for the Taliban. From schools to workplaces, down to dress codes, the slow fading away of Afghan women from public life once feared is now a
And when Christiane visited TOLOnews, Afghanistan's leading independent news channel, she heard from female anchors on the very day the Taliban
told them to cover their faces on air.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): For the past five months, Khatera Ahmadi has been anchoring the morning news on TOLO TV, but this might be the last time she
can show her face on air.
The morning editorial meeting starts with worried discussion about mandatory masking. Station director Khpolwak Sapai says he'd even
considered just shutting down and leaving. But then he thought, female staff who want to carry on anchoring with a mask can, while those who don't
will get other jobs behind the scenes.
KHPOLWAK SAPAI, DIRECTOR, TOLONEWS: We will leave the mask decision to them. They will make their own decision.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): And it's a tough decision for these women, who braved the new Taliban regime to stay on the air, who already adjusted
their head scarves to hide their hair, and who now fear is steep slide back to the Middle Ages. Khatera says she's so stressed, she couldn't even
present her program properly.
KHATERA AHMADI, TOLONEWS ANCHOR (through translator): It's not clear. Even if we appear with the burqa, maybe they will say that women's voices are
forbidden. They want women to be removed from the screen. They are afraid of an educated woman.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Across town, the Taliban government spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, was attending a meeting with local journalists to mark,
a slightly delayed, World Press Freedom Day. We stopped him on the way in.
AMANPOUR (on camera): Because you have said they have to wear face mask if they're on television, women. Why?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): It's advisory from the ministry, he says.
AMANPOUR (on camera): But what does that mean? Is it compulsory?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): If it is said, they should wear it. It will be implemented as it is in our religion too, says Mujahed. It is good if it's
AMANPOUR (on camera): Afghan women are afraid that this is the beginning of your efforts to erase them from the workspace. They're afraid that, if
they wear the mask, the next thing you will say is their voice cannot be heard publicly. What is your response to that?
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Like during COVID, he says, masks were mandatory. Women would only be wearing hijab or masks, and they will continue their
He seems to say that if women wear this, they can go to work. But the dress code edicts, like saying female university students must now wear black,
not colored headscarves, is an escalating war of nerves, and everyone fears where this will lead.
Back at TOLOnews, these female anchors are distraught.
What should we do? Cries Tahmina. We don't know. We were ready to fight to the last to perform our work, but they don't allow us.
We women have been taken hostage, says Hilah (ph).
Women can't get themselves educated or work, like me, who's worked on screen for years and couldn't leave Afghanistan. Due to the fear of the
Taliban, I can't go on screen again.
Since the Taliban takeover, the station has employed even more women than before, because they need a safe space. And as for the actual journalism
TOLOnews is Afghanistan's leading independent news channel. But Director Sapai says they will all quit the day the Taliban pressures them to tailor
their coverage or lie to a public that's come to trust the truth they have been delivering over 20 years.
He's saved the station so far, recruiting a whole new staff, after most employees fled the Taliban's arrival.
SAPAI: And from management level, I felt alone. And I was considered -- I was only thinking that how to keep the screen alive, not to go dark.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): The challenge now is keeping it from going dark. Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GOLODRYGA: Such a brave and inspiring news director. Well, women continue to appear masked on air at TOLOnews for now.
Next, with her life at risk, my next guest made the painful decision to leave Afghanistan. A symbol of hope for girls in her country, Shkula Zadran
is a former Afghan youth representative to the United Nations who fled Kabul following the Taliban's return to power. She now lives in the United
States and joins us from New York.
Shkula, welcome to the program. I can only imagine how painful this must be for you to commemorate this one-year anniversary, I would imagine you would
preferred to have stayed in Afghanistan, yet here you are in New York. I gather from your previous conversations with Christiane that you did have
some hope and the Taliban perhaps showing a new face? Allowing women to have a larger role, to work to, go to school. Clearly that's not the
situation. What do you make of the state of the country right now?
SHKULA ZADRAN, FORMER AFGHAN YOUTH REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.N.: Well, -- thank you very much for inviting me. Let's begin here. I always referred to
the Doha peace agreement as a historic betrayal. I'm talking here on behalf of a generation who is suffering the consequences of a two-decade pointless
war, and the peace deal between Taliban and the United States.
It's very disappointing to say that there were people, there were individuals, there were some women politicians who were constantly lobbying
for Taliban. And they pathed the ground for a radical and extremist group to take over Afghanistan. And now, we are witnessing that the majority of
Afghan nation, mainly Afghan women and youth, are deprived of their fundamental and basic rights and freedoms.
I believe that it could have done -- we could have done it in a better way. But unfortunately, we couldn't. And I think they have failed us as a
nation. And on the other hand, I believe that the concept of human rights and the freedom and -- those who are -- who used to be the war (INAUDIBLE)
flagbearers of human rights, everything is a question.
A post-war country is as critical as a country which is burning an active war. But let's see. The International Community in our so-called strategic
partners analyze what they have been doing to Afghanistan since they have signed the peace deal with the Taliban. The only thing that they are --
they have been doing is that they are stealing the money of a starving nation, and they have been marginalized the entire Afghan nation, which is
And which is very disappointing.
ZADRAN: At the beginning --
GOLODRYGA: I'm sorry. I'm sorry, who is that you say has been stealing and marginalizing the Afghan people?
ZADRAN: Well, obviously, the government of the United States, they have frozen the assets of A fghan -- Afghanistan. And they are not allowing
Afghans to reach and get benefit of their own money. The ongoing humanitarian crisis, the ongoing financial crisis, the ongoing human rights
violations, the ban on the girls' school and the restrictions on women and their participation in society, all these examples are an indication of a
major failure and betrayal with the Afghan nation.
GOLODRYGA: So, what do you make then because obviously, as you know, the argument of the United States and one of the reasons you're here in the
United States is because many don't view the Taliban as a reliable partner. And there was concern that the money and the assets would not go where it
was needed which is why the U.S. not only froze the funding but decided to tailor some of that to go directly to programs like the World Food
Programme and the Red Cross. Do you think there was an alternative route for the United States to take?
ZADRAN: Well, if they are not considering Taliban us their allies, why don't -- they would have signed a deal with them? And they are punishing an
entire nation for the atrocities or activities of a certain group or people. They can -- there are many other alternatives, if you really want
to persuade Taliban to take some firm decisions or bring some amendments to their policies.
For example, they can initiate travel bans on the Taliban -- Taliban's leaders. It can force them to change their policies. There are many other
doers and alternatives to negotiate with them, to convince them to some certain levels. But unfortunately, as usual, United States, International
Community, United Nations, the European Union, all of them are turning the -- a blind eye to the misery and to the calamity that the Afghan people are
The people are starving. Children are malnourished. They don't have enough food to eat. Women are -- especially when it comes to Afghan women, let's
keep in mind that the women that have been living in remote areas of Afghanistan, they have been deprived of the very basic life facilities.
They don't have access to health facilities. They are -- they can't work, they can't go to schools.
And I wish we could hold all of those people accountable. I wish we could ask them those who pathed the ground for the Taliban, those who lobbied for
them, those who signed the deal for them. I wish we could hold our real politicians accountable for all of the things that are happening to us
GOLODRYGA: Well, Shkula --
ZADRAN: And unfortunately --
GOLODRYGA: Shkula, if I can just play for you some sound, as you mentioned the impact, specifically this has had on women, that the hardest hit
obviously that the largest, more than 50 percent of the country is comprised of women. And yet, they have been hit hardest in terms of their
freedoms, ability to work, ability to feed their families and provide for their children, ability to go to school.
And I was really struck by a testimonial that was put together by the "Financial Times" of women -- a group of women that created an online diary
of sorts. To give the world a sense of what their lives had turned into. They shared these messages via a messaging app. And these two are from one
woman. I want to play it for you, whose name has been changed to Marie. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE, (through translator): One of the girls left a diary message, saying that the Taliban had started a house-to-house search. So, it would be best
to destroy any documents showing that you have worked with foreign organizations. This message was like a sledgehammer. I burned all my books
about journalism and politics. As each sheet was burning, I felt several parts of me was burning too.
I tell my father that I'm probably flying next week. I say, it's still not too late. I won't go if you don't want me to. He says, no. Go. You don't
have a future here anymore. Go and follow your own life and dreams. I say to myself, we are never at peace. Not in the past, not now, and maybe not
in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Really grip and heartbreaking testimony. And I'm just curious if that's what you were hearing. If you're in touch with family and
friends, and women who stayed behind there in Afghanistan. Is that their sentiment now to?
ZADRAN: Of course, I am still in touch and in contact with my friends, my colleagues, my family members back in Afghanistan. They are still stuck. I
am here. I was lucky enough, or privileged enough to manage my way out of Afghanistan.
But my heart goes out for all the Afghan women who are stuck back there, who are disappointed and living in a totally desperate situation. They're
not allowed to, like -- especially those young little girls who are not allowed to go to schools. Just imagine their situation. This is very
And the updates that I have been receiving from Afghanistan is totally similar to the voice that we just heard. The story a similar, the misery is
similar. The -- we share the common pain, and the common misery. And it is very interesting that despite all the difficulties and hardships, the
Afghan women, their resistance against Taliban, the way they confront Taliban, the way they demonstrate, they are not only advocating or
demanding their rights but they are demanding the rights for the entire nation.
I always say that the Afghan women are creating history. And the upcoming generation of Afghanistan must be thankful to them because they are
confronting a totalitarian regime, a very cruel regime which is known for their misogynist and cruel policies and decision-making in '90s. And now
they are, like, very obviously doing horrible things to Afghanistan.
And they don't know how to rule the country. But I don't -- when it comes to Afghan peoples' misery, I don't put the entire blame on Taliban. Every
involved party in Afghanistan since past two decades, they are responsible for the current situation. Whether they -- it's the Afghan politicians, our
president, our leaders, or whether it's International Community, or the countries that came to our soil, they wage war.
I always say that the American nation, the youth -- the European youth, the American youth, they need to question their policymakers. They need to
question their politicians. That why our tax money is being spent on waging pointless war in other countries, and why even their sacrifices are not
GOLODRYGA: Well, as you know, and we have said in this program, there are multiple ongoing investigations, some bipartisan in Washington now to get
to the bottom of the questions that you are raising right now.
Shkula Zadran, I can't help but note, when I first heard your name, it's so similar to the Russian word for school, which is shkola. And that was just
very, you know, a touching moment there and a bit bittersweet, but I know you'll continue to fight for women and girls and Afghans as a whole, and
use your voice here. We appreciate your time, Shkula. Thank you.
ZADRAN: Thank you for having me.
GOLODRYGA: When we come back, an attack on truth that has shaken the literary world. We discuss Salman Rushdie's work as threats against authors
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back to the show. Well while freedom of expression is under extreme threat in Afghanistan, so too his free speech around the
world. Including right here in the United States. Famed author Salman Rushdie is recovering at a hospital after he was repeatedly stabbed on
stage in front of a New York audience, Friday. Rushdie became a household name in 1989 after his novel, the "Satanic Verses" led the Iranian supreme
leader to call for his death.
Veteran reporter and press freedom advocate, Jodie Ginsberg, is president of the Committee to Protect Journalists. And she is joining me now from
Jodie, welcome to the program. So, the good news is that Salman is expected to recover, though his son calls these life-changing injuries that he has
suffered. There are reports about his condition, whether or not he might lose an eye. All of that having been said, he's off of ventilator, and his
agent says his condition is headed in the right direction. This is good news, especially considering those early indications initially after the
attack. What is your response? What was your reaction when you first heard of that attack, Friday?
JODIE GINSBERG, PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS: Shock and horror, to be honest. I mean, it is -- the book, "Satanic Verses" which
published in 1988, the attacker wasn't even born when the book was published. And for many years, we were aware of these threats, Salman
Rushdie was in hiding for a decade after the fatwa was issued. But has been able to live relatively freely since then.
And so, it's horrific to think that still, after all of this time, somebody felt compelled to attack an author for his words, for his imagination, in
this way. And it really shocked me to my core.
GOLODRYGA: And on the one hand, it is quite stunning that the decades later, it does appear that they finally lived up. We don't know the exact
circumstances surrounding the attack, but it appears to have finally come to fruition all these years later after that fatwa was initially issued.
But over the years, there have been publishers of the "Satanic Verses" who were also attacked, injured, one died in Japan.
I'm just curious to get your response to Iran coming out today, and while denying any connection to the attacker, blaming Salman Rushdie and his own
supporters for that attack.
GINSBERG: Totally unacceptable. As you say, Iran today said that the accepted -- there was no one to blame. No one to reproach except Rushdie
and his supporters. And it's worth remembering, Rushdie's crime is he published a book. He wrote some words in which he reimagined the life of
the Prophet Muhammad, and the foundations of Islam. That's his alleged crime. And for Iran to say it's essentially his fault that he was attacked
is completely unacceptable.
Unfortunately, this sort of attack falls into a pattern of harassment that we have seen of critics of Iran over the years. It's extraordinarily
difficult to be a journalist in Iran. 11 journalists were recorded in the Committee to Protect Journalists in prison sentences in 2001. One was
journalist was executed at the end of 2020 for simply covering protests in Iran.
But we've also seen a pattern of harassment of journalists operating outside of Iran. So, last month, for example, someone was arrested for
being in possession of a loaded AK-47 rifle outside the home of journalist Masih Alinejad in New York. We've seen the U.N. raise directly with Iran,
the issues around the journalists at BBC Persia who have been subjected to, frankly, a vile and constant campaign of harassment over the past decade,
including really terrifying threats of rape and death against female journalists based in the U.K.
GOLODRYGA: And of course, we remember the Charlie Hebdo attack seven years ago in France. One might say that Salman, obviously, had many, many gifts.
His brilliant mind and his words. But they were also his own sword. He kept working. He kept living a normal life in the United States. Fighting for
freedom of speech and continuing to write novels, even after that fatwa and threat. Let's listen to him here with our own Walter Isaac just last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMAN RUSHDIE, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR: It is quite easy to believe in free speech, if believing in free speech only means believing in speech you
It's when somebody says something you don't like that you discover whether you believe in free speech or not, you know. So, very often, in this corner
of the world, you find yourself defending stuff you can't stand. Defending its right to be, you know. And I think that just has to be so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Jodie, I would bet Salman would stand by that conviction, even today. How important is that sentiment, are those words, especially in
light of what happened over the weekend?
GINSBERG: I believe he would absolutely stand by that sentiment. Salman Rushdie has been absolutely steadfast in his defense of free expression.
And most importantly, for the free expression of people that he disagrees with, that we disagree with, you know. Freedom of expression means nothing
unless it exists for everyone, and that includes the viewpoints of those we abhor and oppose and who we might find offensive.
And I think he would be absolutely steadfast in that convention, as you say. He was extremely supportive of Charlie Hebdo, the front satirical
magazine in which 12 people were killed in 2015 for -- as he said, just for drawing images.
GINSBERG: And that is vital in our society if we are to live together successfully.
GOLODRYGA: It is vital for any democracy. And of course, we continue to wish Salman a speedy recovery. Jodie Ginsberg, thank you so much for your
time. We appreciate it.
GINSBERG: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.