CBS News correspondent Roxana Saberi on the Kabul report

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Roxana Saberi in Kabul

Agnès Reau, CBS News producer

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Just three days before Kabul fell to the Taliban, CBS News foreign correspondent Roxana Saberi entered the Afghan capital to report on the militant group’s takeover. It was a swift transition and the end of the United States’ costly 20-year war in Afghanistan. Saberi and his team spent the next few days writing articles on the ground, talking to Afghans who were desperate to leave the country and terrified of a future under Taliban rule. (The last time the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001, the group was brutal and violent and denied women the right to work, go to school, or travel without a male chaperone.)

“It was heartbreaking to directly feel the suffering of the Afghan people,” Saberi told ELLE.com exclusively via email. The London-based reporter joined CBS News in January 2018 and had previously covered Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in the early 2000s. The CBS crew was able to leave Kabul on Wednesday August 18. airlifted by US troops, as well as hundreds of Afghans. “I left behind a land full of dreams and uncertainties,” says Saberi.

Below, Saberi explains what it was like to report during the chaos; what she heard from Afghans, including those who were able and could not get out; and the questions it seeks to answer in the months to come.

While in Kabul, what types of stories were you trying to tell and what was the hardest part to do?

Stories that show the timeless and universal themes of the desire for peace, the cost of war, bravery, hope and love for family and country. I was moved by the warmth and resilience of the Afghan people, who have been through so much in such a short space of time. I also wanted to show the very real impacts that American policies – both the American presence in Afghanistan and the decision to withdraw all American troops – have had on the lives of Afghans. Many Afghans are too young to remember the Taliban regime, and they feared losing some basic freedoms, including the education of girls, which many of us often take for granted.

The hardest part was the difficulty of interviewing and getting around Kabul after the Taliban arrived, as well as leaving the country, knowing that many Afghans face such an uncertain future.

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What were the challenges or limitations of reporting from Kabul? With the arrival of the Taliban, have you faced any additional limitations because you are a woman?

Between two worlds: my life and my captivity in Iran

As a journalist, I discovered that many Afghans wanted to speak with us to share their stories with the world. But after the Taliban took power last weekend, some are clearly more afraid of Taliban retaliation. For example, two people asked us to blur their faces when we interviewed them. They told us they were in hiding.

Before the Taliban arrived in Kabul, we filmed the streets cautiously but quite easily. After they arrived in town, our movement and ability to shoot became much more limited. Many Afghan journalists have been harassed, targeted and killed by the Taliban in the past, and although the Taliban held an official press conference earlier this week, we saw reports that their fighters were already starting to harass journalists. .

I found that as a female journalist, some Afghan women seemed more comfortable talking to me than if I were a man. It also helps me to speak and understand Dari quite well because it is similar to Persian, and I have lived and worked in Iran for six years.

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Saberi’s report from Kabul.

CBS News

What have you heard from Afghan women and girls about their fears or hopes for their future?

They all told me they wanted to be able to continue to go to school and work. Two little girls injured in the Taliban attacks told me they wanted to be doctors. Pashtana Durrani, the founder of LEARN Afghanistan, an education-focused charity, told me that while the Taliban are now committed to respecting women’s rights, it will be on their strict interpretation of Islamic law. She went into hiding after the Taliban captured her town of Kandahar. “Would they let them study technology, engineering, math?” ” she said. “What about women’s political rights? What about women’s education rights? Women want to help make Afghanistan stable. But where are they? Have they become pawns in the game of the two belligerents? It worries me about them.

You said in one of your reports that an Afghan called your team in the middle of the night, terrified. Can you explain more about what happened?

He told us he went into hiding after the Taliban kidnapped two of his colleagues in the past few days. They all worked for the former Afghan government. I have heard other accounts of Taliban fighters knocking on people’s doors since they took over Kabul. One of them said they searched his relatives’ house, found nothing and left.

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What questions will you seek to answer about the situation in Afghanistan over the next week, next month and next year?

How is the daily life of Afghans affected by the new Taliban regime? Will the Taliban keep their promises to rule with a gentler hand? How will the international community react? What will happen to the young Afghans I have met? What can we do to help them?

What was the most enlightening or impactful interview you conducted in Kabul?

There were quite a few, but what moved me the most were the Afghans I met on a US military plane leaving the country. I joined hundreds of Afghan men, women and children evacuated from the United States. Sayed Jalal-Zaheer told me that he was able to obtain US visas for himself and his family because he had worked as a translator for the US military. He said if he had stayed the Taliban would have killed him. He was relieved to be leaving, but he feared for the friends and relatives he left behind. When I asked him what his hopes were for the future of his children, he said he hopes that they will have a bright future wherever they are and that they will see Afghanistan again, but in peace. .

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I was also touched by Sharifa, an eight-year-old girl who lost her leg in a Taliban attack on her village a few months ago. I met her in a hospital where she was learning to walk with a prosthetic leg. When I asked her what she was afraid of, she replied, “Not to be allowed to go back to school. Her smile was wonderful.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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