Yalda Hakim, an Afghan-born BBC News anchor reporting on the Taliban’s seizure of the government in Afghanistan, received a surprising call on air Monday when Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen dialed her personal, mobile phone.
After she scrambled to have Shaheen’s call heard on the live television broadcast, Hakim was praised by fellow BBC journalists for her ability to act under pressure. Shaheen’s call came after a frantic morning of chaos at the Kabul International Airport, as thousands of Afghan’s attempted to board aircrafts and evacuate the country.
“Okay, we have got the Taliban’s spokesperson Suhail Shaheen on the line,” Hakim said. “Mr. Shaheen, can you hear me?”
After confirming that he could, Yalda Hakim asked Shaheen many probing questions during the half-hour interview, not letting up on answers over how the future Islamic government would function, how many rights would be allowed for women, or how corporal punishment would be enacted.
“There is a lot of chaos and confusion in Kabul at the moment,” Hakim said to Shaheen, “can you just help us understand what the Taliban plan to do at present?”
The Taliban spokesman responded by ensuring a “peaceful transition of power” over the next few days. “There should not be any confusion,” Shaheen responded. “We ensure the people of Afghanistan in the city of Kabul, that their properties and their lives are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone. We are the servants of the people and of this country.”
Shaheen further elaborated that women and children would be allowed to attend higher education, but that the government’s functions would be up to the yet-to-be appointed “judges in the courts and the law.”
Despite recent stances by the Taliban, many Afghans are skeptical and afraid of the regime. Twenty years ago, when the Taliban held power in Afghanistan, there were public executions and strict rules regarding women. Girls were banned from attending school, going outside without a male escort, or being seen without wearing a burqa.
Asking about Afghan citizen participation in the new government, she asked Shaheen if that meant, “1 vote, 1 person,” to which he responded that there would be “inclusion,” but that it would all fall under the Taliban, which he referred to as the Islamic Emirates.
Shaheen also informed Hakim that Taliban soldiers were ordered to stay outside the city of Kabul, because the Taliban wants to, “avoid bloodshed and destruction to the properties and the people,” though there would be no transitional government when all comes to pass.
“Have never witnessed anything quite like what happened in studio this morning,” BBC News floor manager Swimmers Jackson wrote on Twitter. “Pointing our guest mic at Yalda Hakim’s own mobile phone as a Taliban spokesman rang it in the middle of her juggling another live interview. Timing is everything, there was no rearranging this.”
“Yalda Hakim nailing it, all while dealing with an incredibly upsetting story,” said BBC News correspondent Stephanie Hagarty on Twitter. “Wow.”
Former BBC broadcaster Aasmah Mir called the interview “just mind-blowing,” referring to Yalda Hakim as an “absolute boss.”
“Incredible Yalda Hakim, reporting on Afghanistan with such poise, speaking to the spokesperson of the Taliban,” National News Editor-In-Chief Mina Al-Oraibi wrote on Twitter. “Reporting with elegance & focus, even though she feels so strongly and passionately about Afghanistan.”
Originally born in Afghanistan, Yalda Hakim’s parents fled Kabul during the Soviet-Afghan War when she was just 6-months-old, eventually settling in Australia. Hakim now hosts the BBC World News broadcast of Impact with Yalda Hakim, where she’s been the lead BBC anchor since 2014. Hakim has yet to comment about her time on air with Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen.