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"The threat is real and stark": Deutsche Welle from Bonn still has staff in Kabul

"The threat is real and stark" : Deutsche Welle from Bonn still has staff in Kabul

Deutsche Welle fears for some employees who are still stuck in Kabul. Meanwhile, Welthungerhilfe, based in Bonn, is worried about women in Afghanistan.

Deutsche Welle (DW) is in deep trouble: although the German employees of the Bonn-based broadcaster managed to leave the country two weeks ago, twelve Afghan employees are still stuck in the country with their families. One family has not yet made it to Kabul, says DW press officer Christoph Jumpelt, while the rest are relatively safe in a secret location "and are staying put. However, the term "safe" is very relative in a city where the Taliban are taking control of the capital block by block.

Jumpelt says Taliban fighters have already visited the former residences of DW employees and questioned neighbors. "This whole thing shows that our people are known by name: The threat situation is real and blatant," Jumpelt says in alarm. It is not yet known when the DW employees will be able to leave, he adds. In addition to the lack of transport capacity, Jumpelt complains about bureaucratic hurdles, because there is no exit without a visa. This is a problem because the German Embassy in Kabul is closed. An exit "to an intermediate hub in Tajikistan" is conceivable. There, the security check required for a visa to Germany could then take place.

"Our reporting, which provided the German public and politicians with analyses, insights and impressions from the country, was inconceivable without the dedication and courage of the Afghan staff who supported us on the ground," reads a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, signed by DW, "Der Spiegel," "Die Zeit," "Deutschlandradio" and many others. The lives of these freelancers are now in acute danger, they say. The signatories demand: "We hereby call upon you to establish an emergency visa program for Afghan employees of German media houses.

Journalists in mortal danger

In the past few weeks alone, world-renowned photographer Danish Siddiqui was shot dead in Kandahar, and a television journalist died in a bomb attack in Kabul. Amdadullah Hamdard, a frequent contributor to Die Zeit, was shot dead outside his home in Jalalabad.

Other Bonn-based organisations also fear for their employees. According to press spokeswoman Sandra Schiller, "Help" has not had any German staff in Afghanistan for years, but it is uncertain what will happen to the local forces. At present, the aid organization does not provide any information about people or project locations. Only this much: "Our projects are currently on pause in Afghanistan.“

Matthias Mogge, head of Welthungerhilfe, based in Bonn, confesses that the organization has 200 national employees in the country at very different locations and in the Kabul country office. Of the five international staff members, two have already left the country, he says, while for the others, every effort is being made to organise their departure. Mogge, who has a dedicated line to Kabul, registers "a great deal of uncertainty, coupled with fear, as to what this new power in the country means for them. At the same time, they want to remain present at all costs. Mogge is also concerned about the women in the country, who have repeatedly been supported by Welthungerhilfe programs.

Yesterday, the Bonn-based organization "UN Women" published the open letter "#HelftAfghanistansFrauen" to the German government: It should "rescue as many women's rights activists as possible together with their families from Afghanistan." These courageous women, the „UN Women“ said, have stood up for women's and children's rights "and thus for an open, diverse and democratic society."

(Original text: Thomas Kliemann, Translation: Mareike Graepel)