Almost one year since the United States left Afghanistan, Australian journalist Lynne O’Donnell has detailed the terror unfolding in the country and shared her own horrifying ordeal of being detailed and threatened by the Taliban.
O’Donnell arrived in Afghanistan on July 16, and says she spent three days being “detained, abused, and threatened” by Taliban intelligence agents.
They forced her to sign a retraction of reports they said had broken their laws and offended Afghan culture. She was threatened with being sent to jail if she refused to sign the “barely literate” language in the tweet that went out from her account (and that still sits on her profile). Later, they forced her to record a video apology. She writes about having to do two takes as they actually shared some humour with her over the first. Following the second take, she says they drove her back to her guesthouse and said she was free to leave and took a plane immediately out of the country.
“Far from achieving their goal of intimidating and undermining me, they showed me what I went to find — their true face. Their brutality, arrogance, and lack of humanity. Their self-righteousness, intolerance, and misogyny.”
Writing for her publication Foreign Policy, O’Donnell describes what she found had become of the country that she fled in August 2021, just hours before the Taliban took Kabul.
Having reported on Afghanistan for over two decades — she was reporting from the North of the country when the United States invaded following the 9/11 attacks — O’Donnell says she can now never return. She adds that most Western journalists will also never be able to return under Taliban rule, especially with so many “harried, hassled and hustled” away this week.
As such, she writes passionately against the Taliban — their incompetence and inability to rule, and their disastrous attempts to transition to a governing body. She also writes that sex is a prevailing theme of their anger.
O’Donnel describes meeting people who described their fear, loss, disgust and desperation. She said everywhere she went people were without jobs, money and hope for the future and for their children.
“What I found was a violent peace. People are arbitrarily detained, disappeared, interrogated, beaten, killed.”
She wrote that fear is digging in and that it will be there for the long haul as the Taliban aims to encourage neighbours to spy on each other.
O’Donnell’s account is an eye-witness report of a continuing tragedy playing out in a country that looks set to descend even further into hell.
With journalists like O’Donnell unable to return, this is a story we’re set to hear even less about.
O’Donnell won’t be back. But she says: “I won’t stop watching. And I won’t stop caring.” Important words for all of us.