Interview with Afghan Zariza

“Compared to other regional countries, Afghan media is a success story”

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi is a journalist and editor at Deutsche Welle (DW), based in Germany. She holds a masters degree in Media Studies and mostly writes on Afghanistan and South Asia with focus on women

Q. You have been living outside your country since twenty years. When did you leave the country and what are your earliest memories of growing up in Afghanistan?
A.
Even though I was small when we left Kabul, I can vividly remember most of the things from that time. I do remember playing in front of our block in Macroyan and seeing other children play and make merry. Our neighborhood was clean and green. We did not have much, but we led a happy life. My mother was working as a news anchor at the national TV and my father was studying medicine. In the evenings, we would turn on the TV and see my mother reading the news.
Sometimes, my father would take me with him to university or stay home with me. Many of his friends would poke fun at him, but I was lucky to have a father who saw me as his pride not as a burden. My parents never differentiated between me and my brother. It is their sacrifices that made me the person I am today.

One of those sacrifices was migrating to Germany in 1992. I was very young, but seeing the pain my parents went through, leaving their home and their families, was hard for me. We had no money and no perspective when we reached Germany, but the strong will of finding a better life kept us from giving up.

Q. A large majority of Afghans are now based abroad, mostly in Europe and U.S. How difficult is the cultural adjustment, especially for someone coming from a third world country?
A.
I was not easy for me to grow up in Germany, in a city with few foreigners and almost no other Afghans around. I constantly felt like an outsider and someone abnormal, who was tolerated but not welcomed into the society. Unlike the U.S., a lot of European countries do not have a very welcoming migration policy.

As a child, being different was limited to my appearance and not eating pork. Sometimes, I even forgot that I had a different life just few years back, but as I grew older the cultural differences constantly grew with me. Being a teenager from a Muslim background in Europe is troubling. Being a teenager with Afghan parents is even tougher. I learned to embrace the fact that I will not be like everyone else and I am proud of it.

Q. As an Afghan-German journalist, how do you see the current state of the Afghan media landscape?
A.
Since my days in university, I have been doing research on the Afghan media landscape and followed its development particularly since the fall of the Taliban. Compared to other countries in the region, the Afghan media is a success story. Not only do they have a greater press freedom, they also have a great variety of outlets in TV, Radio and print. All this was achieved in just a decade. However, the freedom is still limited and I repeatedly observe a lack of professionalism in almost all media outlets. Yes, the Afghan media is still young and many journalists lack experience, but I think that a lot of people tend to forget that Afghanistan has a great history of literature and journalism.

Q. During your work, when you come across the news reports about suicide attacks, violence against women and children in your home country, do you feel outraged?
A.
Every day I see negative and positive stories from my home country. Unfortunately it is mostly the negative stories that make it to the top news and these are the stories I deal with most. A lot of my friends ask me how I am able to deal with the same negative stories again and again, but I see it as my duty to report on the brutal crimes against innocent civilians, especially Afghan women.

Q. How did you perceive the media coverage during the presidential elections in Afghanistan?
A.
Just like everyone else, I was pleasantly surprised by the unprecedented voter turnout in presidential elections. The media coverage was much more professional than last time. There is still scope for improvement but I feel they are moving in the right direction. We saw TV debates for the first time in Afghan media history and there was an overwhelming use of social media, where Afghans all around the world followed every move.

Q. As they say, you can take the person out of country, but you cannot country out of the person. What is the one thing that makes you proud as an Afghan?
A.
I am not actually proud, because I have not done much for my home country to feel proud. Unlike my brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, I live a peaceful life and I have only seen little of war. However I am still a piece of my motherland and my wish is that someday I will make her proud. If I can be the voice to Afghan people and inspire Afghan girls to work hard for their goals, which will be my life’s biggest achievement.

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