Exposure – Afghanistan: No Country For Women 8 May 2022: Sunday on ITV
British-Iranian correspondent Ramita Navai powerfully exposes the reality of life for women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan: No Country for Women. In this documentary for ITV’s Bafta-winning Exposure strand, Navai secretly films in a jail where she discovers women being held by the Taliban without trial or charge, their fate often unknown to their families.
Ramita Navai uncovers evidence of Taliban officials using violence to forcibly marry young girls, as she accompanies an underground network of female activists on dangerous missions to rescue women hunted by the Taliban and joins a women’s protest that is broken up by their security forces.
Over the course of six months, ITV’s Exposure has investigated the Taliban’s treatment of women – and uncovered abuses that have never been reported before. Speaking Dari, one of the main languages of Afghanistan, Ramita Navai gains access to rarely visited areas undetected, gathering evidence.
In northern Afghanistan the team investigated reports that women had been disappearing without trace since the Taliban gained power. Highly-placed contacts told Navai the women had been jailed by the Estegabaarat, the Taliban Intelligence Service, for so- called ‘moral crimes’, such as travelling without a male relative. They alleged the arrests were being kept secret. “The Taliban want international recognition. They want to show women are OK and they do not have problems.”
Filming with a hidden camera, the team gained access to a major prison where they suspected the missing women were being held. They discovered around forty of the women huddled in a courtyard, with others in nearby cells. Those Navai spoke with said they were held without trial or charge.
Later, a few families negotiated the release of their daughter and the programme follows them as they are reunited with their families. They described being tasered and beaten, adding that officials pressured them to marry Taliban fighters. They resisted but one girl told Navai, “They detained other girls, 5 or 6 days after us, and they forced them to marry Talibs to get their freedom.”
The programme speaks to Najia Soroush who founded Radio Sada-e-Banowan, the Voice of Women. Although she is the station director the Taliban have decreed she must visit only when the offices are empty. None of her female staff have been able to return to work and she says she receives threats. She said: “Before we had programmes with music. Girls could host live talk shows and there was laughter. Before, a girl could joke with a boy, but we can’t do that anymore.”
In the capital, Kabul, the team join an underground network of young women who live in hiding, operating secret safe houses for those on the run from the Taliban. The team follows the network on a risky mission to rescue an exhausted and frightened woman and her family. Before the regime, the woman was a journalist and the Taliban are now hunting for her. She showed Navai a recent picture of her brother, whom she says the Taliban had branded with a red-hot poker in an attempt to force him to reveal her whereabouts. She tells Navai, “You wouldn’t do this to an animal but they do it to humans. Why? Because I am a journalist.” Navai meets other women who say relatives have been tortured, as the Taliban search for them.
Navai tells Government spokesperson Bilal Karimi about what the team have found. He denies these things can have happened and says they are ‘lies’ and ‘baseless claims’. “We tell everyone that you must follow Islamic standards. We will never allow our men to commit such indecent acts. Other countries should not impose on us what is good for them. We have our own culture, interests and values. The international community must now allow us to build a government for ourselves.”
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Films made by a range of producers exploring and investigating topics that impact Britain and the world at large, reporting on issues and telling human-interest stories that resonate.
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