Charlotte Bellis, a journalist for Al Jazeera, was one of only three known female reporters approved for the Taliban’s first televised news conference since seizing control of Afghanistan on Monday. The two other women who attended, according to Bellis, were Afghan journalists she called “women much bolder than myself.”
Addressing the world for the first time since the takeover on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid assured the country that they sought “security and peace,” but media attention could not ignore spotting a young, blond woman in attendance at the press conference.
A sign of potential increases in women’s rights under Taliban rule, Charlotte Bellis one of only three known women among a room full of male reporters, as she reported for Al Jazeera in Kabul.
Sakina Amiri, an Afghan reporter for Etilaatroz, is believed to be one of the other women at the Taliban press conference, thanks to some Twitter sleuthing unearthed by users commenting on Charlotte Bellis’ posts describing the event.
Bellis was the reporter who got the most attention, however, since she was quick to ask the first question. Posing a concern for a large portion of the Afghan population, Bellis asked if women could expect to continue their work and education, or if they would be forced to stay inside the home with their children once again.
Many Afghan women are worried about their rights since the Taliban takeover, and have been waiting anxiously to hear about the rules of their new government. 20 years ago, the last time the Taliban ruled over the country, it was illegal for women to go outside without wearing a burka, and they could not attend school or be seen without a male escort.
Since the Taliban’s previous rule, many women had even served in the Afghan Parliament.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid responded by saying that women would be guaranteed rights “within the limits of Islam,” and that even though the new Taliban regime is “committed to the rights of women,” it is also bound “within our framework of sharia.”
Bellis later reported that Mujahid wrote on social media that “women can work in all industries and offices including the police and attorney general’s office.”
“Very proud to call @CharlotteBellis a colleague, countrywoman, and friend,” wrote Kamahl Santamaria, a fellow-reporter at Al Jazeera. “She and our Kabul team are doing a tremendous job… the best and most up-to-date coverage as #Afghanistan slides back under Taliban control.”
A reporter from New Zealand, Charlotte Bellis has been on the ground in Afghanistan giving real time updates on Twitter about her experience during the tumultuous regime change.
“Returned to my hotel to find hotel security replaced by Taliban members with AKs,” she wrote on Monday. “They had parked their U.S-made humvees outside. Said good evening. They looked startled. And I walked into the lobby and ordered room service. Welcome to the new Kabul.”
Many outlets have wondered why Bellis was featured so prominently in the press conference, as well as given the opportunity to ask a question, while The Australian suggested that it was because Al Jazeera has been known to be more sympathetic than the Western media.
Either way, Charlotte Bellis’ courage has inspired journalists and women around the world, with many wishing for her safety in Kabul.
Earlier this week, a Taliban spokesman phoned female BBC News anchor Yalda Hakim, who kept her composure as she asked him some of the first questions regarding the transfer of power in Afghanistan live on air.
The Taliban spokesman responded by ensuring the world that there would be a “peaceful transition of power.”