Two women sit at a desk, looking at some papers

Women's Radio in Afghanistan Persists in Face of Threats

August 29, 2019
BBC reporter Mike Thomson visits Radio Roshani in Kunduz, Afghanistan to talk to the station manager about the challenges she faces

Radio Roshani in Kunduz, Afghanistan is a women-led station that is part of the Salam Watandar network, which was founded by Internews. It was featured on the BBC Newshour with host Razia Iqbal. Listen to the program:

Written Transcript

Razia Iqbal: We report on and from Afghanistan often given the continuing conflict there, but some parts of the country remain under the radar. Kunduz, in the far north, is one of them, rampant in security, kidnapping, and attacks by the Taliban in that region mean it’s a dangerous place to visit. But the volatility that people face every day there has not silenced the city’s Radio Roshani. It continues to campaign for women’s rights despite regular death threats and attacks. Mike Thomson reports now in the third of his series on frontline radio stations around the world.

[Music]

Mike Thomson: Kunduz’s Radio Roshani is run for and by women but broadcasts in what’s still very much a man’s world.

[Women’s voices on the radio]

Woman: Some men are stuck with the old culture and don’t like these new ideas about women. We’ve received many threats but we haven’t backed down. We are determined to carry on and try and change our society.

[Sound of gunfire]

Mike Thomson: In late September 2015, this conflict-plagued city in the far north of Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban. Outraged by the promotion of women’s rights, they set out to silence Radio Roshani. After finding that its staff had fled, they destroyed the station’s archives, stole its equipment, and placed mines in its offices. And although the Taliban was soon forced out of the city, the intimidation continues. The station’s founder Sediqa Sherzai.

Sediqa Sherzai (translated): This kind of threats involved telling me that I am misguiding local women and promoting divisions in their family, promoting wars in the family, and you’re promoting human rights. These actions are so bad, they tell me, that I deserve to be killed. Even more than an American does.

[Music]

Mike Thomson: The station highlights local music, as well as phone-in programs which cover a host of issues affecting women’s lives here from domestic violence to emotional problems caused by child brides and polygamous marriages.

Sediqa Sherzai (translated): When men get money they go for a second wife, then a third and so on. It’s mainly for sex life purposes rather than meeting the Islamic conventions.

[Street sounds]

Mike Thomson: On the surface, everyday life in this city of nearly 270,000 people, looks relatively normal with busy markets, copious traffic, and no obvious signs of crime. But Sahal, who works at a rival radio station nearby, insists the reality if very different.

Sahal (translated): Security-wise, the situation here has got even worse. There are lots of assassinations, kidnappings, and crime. And unemployment is very high because of all the fighting and crime.

[Music and voices from the radio]

Mike Thomson: Talks now being held between Taliban and American representatives could finally bring real peace to Kunduz and the rest of this turbulent country, but staff at Radio Roshani fear that this could come at the cost of women’s rights, which they fought so long and hard to improve.

(Banner photo: At Radio Hamasa in Jawzjan, Station Manager Nooria and Producer Shabana. Credit: Internews)