Two Journalists Say Taliban Beat Them for Covering Women's Protest in Kabul

Two Afghan video journalists said they were beaten by the Taliban with iron rods for covering a women's rights protest in Kabul earlier this week.

Tagi Daryabi, 22, said he and a colleague were covering a protest by women demanding their rights from the Taliban. Taliban fighters stopped Daryabi and his colleague, bound their hands and took them to a police station in Kabul's District Three, the Associated Press reported.

It was there that Daryabi said Taliban fighters began beating him and his 28-year-old colleague, Neamatullah Naqdi. Daryabi said he was beaten non-stop for 10 minutes at one point.

"I couldn't think. I didn't know if I would be killed or if I would live," he said. Daryabi and Nadqi both still have bruises from the incident.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghan Journalists Beaten by Taliban
Two Afghan journalists said they were beaten and detained for hours by Taliban fighters for covering a women's rights protest. In this picture taken on Sept. 8, 2021, Afghan newspaper Etilaat Roz journalists Nematullah Naqdi (R) and Taqi Daryabi sit in their office after being released from Taliban custody in Kabul. Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

"We call on the Taliban to immediately cease the use of force toward, and the arbitrary detention of, those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the journalists covering the protests," the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement Friday.

It said reports point to the increasing use of force by the Taliban "against those involved in or reporting on the demonstrations."

Uncowed, Daryabi said he would return to the street to cover another protest.

"It's very dangerous for me to stand up to them. The Taliban say the media is free, but how can they say that when they are beating me and my colleagues?" he said. "We cannot just stop our work."

Daryabi and Naqdi work for the small, privately-owned Etilaat Roz newspaper, which also broadcasts video news on a YouTube channel.

In the chaotic days following the Taliban's takeover of Kabul on August 15, thousands of people, including women and young journalists, rushed to the Kabul airport desperate to escape the militants' rule.

In the weeks since, women have held multiple protests for their rights, almost all of them broken up violently by Taliban fighters. Two men were killed last week when the Taliban opened fire on a women's rights protest in the western city of Herat. Journalists have been harassed at the rallies, including another cameraman who was beaten.

Despite the abuse at the hands of the Taliban, Duryabi said he wasn't ready to give up on his homeland.

"I will see if the Taliban continues like this, but if they change and bring a face that protects the media, I will live here. My life is in Afghanistan. But I don't know, because today I can't guarantee anything," he said.

Daryabi's newspaper and other media houses say it's not clear whether the heavy-handedness of some local police commanders is sanctioned by the Taliban's media wing. That office has shown a more engaging side, welcoming foreign journalists, and allowing some women presenters to remain on the air at the country's most popular TV station, TOLO TV.

"My own feeling is that there seems to be a disconnect between the leadership and...the rank-and-file type commanders, who are doing this on the ground," said Saad Mohsini, executive director of Moby Media Group, which owns TOLO TV. "The way they behave reflects perhaps, not the official Taliban media policy, but more the attitude of that particular commander."

Etilaat Roz chief editor Khaadim Karimi, who went to the police station to rescue his reporters, said one Taliban fighter tried to stop the beating of the two journalists by his comrades.

"I saw his humanness. He tried to help," Karimi said. Daryabi and Naaqdi were freed after about four hours.

Mohsini said the media needs guarantees and protection. He called for a commission including both the Taliban information ministry officials and representatives of the media to hear complaints from both sides.

Mohsini, whose TOLO TV employs hundreds, says he has stayed engaged with the Taliban leadership as it navigates its way forward.

Governments around the world are deeply skeptical. In their eyes, the new interim all-Taliban cabinet defied the movement's promises to be inclusive. Instead, the militants appear to have embraced the leadership of the 1990s, when their harsh interpretation of Islam denied women rights and severely restricted the media.

One difference now is that those leaders have global exposure they didn't have during their earlier time in power.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, for example, rarely left the movement's former heartland, Kandahar in the south, when they last ruled. In recent years, he was the Taliban chief negotiator, stood on the same stage as world leaders, worked out a deal with the U.S. heavily weighted in the Taliban's favor and now is the deputy premier.

It was Baradar who helped ensure the departure from Kabul on Thursday and Friday of American citizens and Afghan green card holders on the first commercial flights.

Journalists show bruises from Taliban
Afghan journalists Neamatullah Naqdi, 28, and Taqi Daryabi, 22, pose for a portrait at Etilaat Roz daily office in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. The Afghan reporters were detained and beaten by Taliban forces after covering a women's protest in Kabul. Bernat Armangue/AP Photo