#Opinion

CNN’s Clarissa Ward Dons Hijab On Afghan Streets Under Taliban. But Why The Trolling?

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Chief international correspondent for CNN, Clarissa Ward is out and about on-ground in Afghanistan, reporting from the capital of Kabul that is now the domain of the Taliban.

As the terror group makes a full-throttled return to power in the country after two decades, the air is thick with fear and streets have run empty. Afghan women tell SheThePeople that women, especially, anticipating a massive pushback on their rights and safety under the radical Islamist group’s reign, are confining themselves inside homes.

Amid the chaos, a fearless coterie of women journalists – both local and international – are leading the front in bringing live news from terror-stricken Afghanistan. Among them is Clarissa Ward, a prominent American television figure and experienced war correspondent.

The 41-year-old is out interacting with armed Taliban fighters, pressing them on questions pertinent to the country’s people. To ensure safe passage, Ward is seen on-air donned in a black hijab and cover veiling her head-to-toe, in line with the Taliban’s compulsory directive of women dressing so in public spaces. More on that here.

She is among several women journalists who are persistent in their jobs of relaying information from ground zero. This, even as public spaces have largely been stripped of independence. Reporters like Hasiba Atakpal and Zahra Rahimi of TOLO News one day into Taliban rule returned to work on the streets – with mics and cameras, the roads behind them largely populated only by men.

Clarissa Ward And Putting Life Before Garb – Does It Warrant Trolling?

For her change in attire, Ward has become the target of foul attacks on social media – including from several journalism colleagues from across the world. Netizens are pulling her up for ‘giving in’ to the Taliban’s diktats or trolling her appearance and seeming ‘change’ in identity. Highly communal dialogue too is flowing free.

How fair is it? More importantly, how accurate is it?

Ward in a tweet cleared that the difference in her garb was “not quite this stark” as memes were alleging by way of a comparison of her wardrobe before and after the Taliban took control in Afghanistan on August 15.

“The top photo is inside a private compound. The bottom is on the streets of Taliban held Kabul,” she wrote, adding that while she always wore a headscarf while reporting from the region, elements like the abbaya were new additions.

The Taliban, in a press conference Tuesday, said to a room full of reporters that media would be allowed to continue operations, with the inclusion of women in news spaces. However, terms and conditions abound – such as reporting without resorting to words against Islam – leaving questions of the safety rights and assurance of journalists, especially women journalists, open-ended.

Women continue brave reporting despite Taliban taking over streets, newsrooms

It’s not uncommon for reporters – especially those posted in conflict or war-torn countries – to adhere to local commands or culture. Does that position them as weak? They only do it so they can continue echoing the voices of the vulnerable to the world that needs to hear them. Even then, there is no assurance of ever-lasting safety.

Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui, slain in Afghanistan by terrorists in July this year, is a standout, tragic example.

Does that kind of immeasurable, selfless courage not count for anything?

Then for a journalist, among so many others like her, who displays grit every day that she reports for the world from a zone that now threatens serious oppression of women, does Ward deserve the kind of criticism coming her way? In a bid to challenge Taliban terror or prove her competence as a journalist, is she expected to forgo the right to her own safety, her life?

Does her reporting not speak loud enough? 


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The views expressed are the authors own.