What Place for Women-Led Journalism in Afghanistan? A Conversation With Zahra Nader
In the fifth episode of our “Peer-to-Peer” series, the editor-in-chief of independent Afghan news outlet Zan Times tells us about how the project started in 2022 and how it operates today, with women journalists reporting on the field, under the Taliban rule.
In less than two years, the Taliban have erased 20 years of progress for Afghan girls’ and women’s rights according to the latest estimates by UN experts. They have also restricted press freedom, and women journalists were the most affected by that: more than 84% of them have lost their jobs since August 2021, whereas 52% of men have.
While many local media outlets were forced to close shop, Afghan voices from elsewhere in the world rose, making it their mission to talk about the reality of what’s happening in Afghanistan. Zan Times was launched in that context, in August 2022. Edited in Dari Persian and in English, the women-led independent news platform aims to give a voice to women and the LGBTQ+ community.’
We sat down with its editor-in-chief, Zahra Nader, to talk about how Zan Times came to be, how their newsroom operates today and what it’s like for women journalists under Taliban rule.
“We don’t have one monolithic Afghan woman that is victim, that is oppressed, that is under a burqa. Women in Afghanistan are very diverse: they come from different cultures, they come from different ethnicities, they come from different geographies. And that, of course, shapes their views, who they are, and how they interpret the world.”
— Zahra Nader in Peer-to-Peer, episode 5
Currently based in Toronto, Zahra Nader started her career as a journalist back in Kabul in 2011. Her first interest in reporting came from a passion for always learning more, reading and writing — all stemming from the fact that she was denied an education as a child refugee in Iran in the late 1990s.
Zahra has worked for different Afghan news outlets, as well as The New York Times, Time, Foreign Policy, The Guardian and more. She is the editor-in-chief of Zan Times and a Ph.D. student (women and gender studies) at York University.