Since the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, the situation for many people in the country – especially women – has been extremely precarious. Girls are threatened with forced marriage. There is a great fear of being locked up at home and not being allowed to go to work or school.
In Kabul, men paint over billboards showing women uncovered. For fear of the consequences.
In the midst of this threatening environment, CNN journalist Clarissa Ward (41) still dares to take to the streets. Tries to get in contact with people, to do interviews. Ward is one of the last foreign reporters in the country.
“Death to the Americans”
In her report she first stands in front of the former US embassy. Behind her is a group of armed Taliban. The journalist asks the men what message they have for the United States. “America has already spent enough time in Afghanistan, now they have to leave the country,” is the answer.
A short time later, the Islamists shouted “Death to the Americans,” reports Ward. “At the same time, they seem to be friendly,” she continues. “It’s completely bizarre.”
This part of the report is now being used by conservative US media and also by Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz as a template to shoot against CNN. “Is there an enemy of America that CNN wouldn’t cheer for?” Cruz posted on Twitter.
The broadcaster didn’t let the criticism sit on its own and replied: “Instead of fleeing to Cancun in difficult times, Clarissa Ward risks her life to tell the world what is happening. It’s called bravery. “
CNN is alluding to Cruz’s vacation trip to Mexico last winter. At a time when chaos broke out in Texas after a severe winter storm and people were left without electricity and with a scarce water supply.
Now Cruz should use the time “better to help Americans in need” instead of “spreading misleading clips by a conspiracy theorist,” CNN wrote in the statement.
“Go to the side because I’m a woman”
Indeed, the excerpt that Cruz shares does not match the overall picture of the report. After the passage in front of the embassy, the presidential palace is faded in. The situation there looks completely different. The men present are not ready to talk. “They told me to step aside because I was a woman,” says Clarissa Ward.
In her later assessment she talks about the women in Kabul. Mainly Taliban fighters and other men are out and about on the streets. Women have practically disappeared from the streets. Those who are outside would now dress “much more conservatively”. For this reason, burqa shops are now booming. “They think from now on this is the only way for women to be safe on the streets.”
Meme for being fully veiled
Their own appearance is also causing quite a stir on the Internet. On Sunday, Ward appeared in front of the studio camera in western clothes. Then on Monday she was fully veiled on the street in Kabul.
The comparison of the two recordings has since gone viral as a meme. In a statement, Clarissa Ward puts the before-and-after comparison into perspective. “This meme is inaccurate,” she writes on Twitter. The photo above shows her in a private building. The lower one, on the other hand, was recorded outside on the street while the city was already in the hands of the Taliban.
She also wore a headscarf beforehand when she was outside. However, she admits: “Even if not with completely covered hair and abaya.” There is therefore a difference in her clothing before the Taliban’s invasion, but not as strong as the meme-makers want to suggest.
Journalist does not want to attract attention
The Taliban were for the most part “polite” to their TV group and allowed them to continue doing their work, she notes in a circuit.
When she asked a Taliban representative about protection for women, he replied: “Your life will go on, you can go to school and work.” However, the women should cover themselves. “Like me?” Asks Ward. The man gives her to understand that the hands and face should not be shown either. “Because that’s the way it is in our Islam,” is the rationale.
However, she herself was not asked to take these steps by anyone, Ward explains later. Nevertheless, she is now wearing a hijab and an abaya out of an “excess of caution”. She doesn’t want to attract too much attention and “become a story” herself. (man)