USA Today journalist who escaped Afghanistan to speak at Media School next week
As a female minority journalist living and working in Afghanistan, Fatema Hosseini was never daunted by her circumstances. Despite consistent harassment and fears of death, Hosseini reported meaningful stories, challenged the norm for Afghan women and bravely escaped the country she was born in after the Taliban’s takeover.
Hosseini will tell her story in a Q&A at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Franklin Hall commons. The talk, which is in-person but will also be streamed on Zoom, is part of The Media School’s Speaker Series and is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Middle East.
Hosseini, 27, was originally born in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan, although she spent much of her childhood in Iran. In 2018, she graduated from Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, with a major in politics, philosophy and economics.
After her graduation, she moved back to Afghanistan and got in touch with a journalist who worked for Etilaat Roz, a major Afghanistan paper. Although Hosseini originally wanted to become a researcher, she accepted a job there.
“I kept thinking about it, and I had so many reasons to accept this offer, because I face discrimination, harassment and marginalization as a woman,” Hosseini said. “These were all reasons for me to become a reporter to raise the voices of women.”
While she worked for her local paper, Hosseini focused her reporting on government corruption and injustice against minorities and females. One of her first pieces examined victims of war in Afghanistan. Despite her efforts to produce meaningful stories, Hosseini often struggled to gain information and publish content due to the political climate and the needs of the paper she was at.
“Working as a journalist wasn’t easy, because the government was corrupted and I couldn’t get the information that I wanted,” Hosseini said.
In addition to facing problems accessing government information, Hosseini said she also needed to gain the trust of her interviewees and sources.
“I had to work on the relationship with my sources constantly,” Hosseini said. “I had to make them trust me because of the consequences they could face.”
Despite the consistent struggles and harassment that Hosseini frequently faced, she could not step away from her role as a reporter, she said. Her love for her job and her drive to bring a voice to the voiceless kept her going.
Earlier this year, a colleague reached out to Hosseini and said USA Today needed journalists who could speak English and help produce stories in Afghanistan. Hosseini, fluent in English among other languages, took the opportunity and began reporting for USA Today.
The situation in Afghanistan became more unsafe after U.S. President Joe Biden announced full removal of U.S. troops by Sept. 11, 2021.
“I was so scared,” Hosseini said, “and one of my colleagues texted me asking how I was doing and if I needed any help. And I thought to myself, ‘You’re just a journalist. How can you help me?’”
Hosseini began to focus on how she could get her family out of the country. As the situation continued to worsen, Hosseini was told that if she wanted to leave Afghanistan, she needed to be prepared to do it alone.
“I realized that in order to save my family, I myself had to be saved,” Hosseini said.
On Aug. 19, Hosseini left Afghanistan and traveled to the U.S. with the help of her USA Today colleagues. The Afghanistan government had collapsed four days prior, and the Taliban had taken over Kabul. Her family was also evacuated and found refuge in Ukraine.
Now in the U.S., Hosseini is still working for USA Today, but she has another mission. Prior to leaving Afghanistan, she applied to master’s programs all around the world. On the day she left Afghanistan, Hosseini was granted admittance into the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom to earn her master’s in media studies. She wants to continue her education so she can lobby for women who face harassment in the media field. Beyond this, Hosseini also wants to continue to cover corruption and expose the wrongdoings of high-ranking government officials, she said.
“I will have to get back to Afghanistan,” Hosseini said. “I want to sit at a table with officials, and I want to ask them to explain everything they’ve done to me and women like me in my generation.”