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'Journalism became my love story'

October 17, 2017

How do refugee journalists view their new lives in Germany?  In the video series "Dear Germany" Shakila Ebrahimkhil talks about how she started afresh in a small city. Her kids have plans, but what about her?

Shakila Ibrahimkhail
Image: privat

'Journalism became my love story'

Five journalists from Syria, Uganda, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Azerbaijan have been involved in the "Dear Germany" project.  DW wanted to know from them: how is it going for you, one, two or even eight years after your escape? What do you think about your home country? What frustrates you and what do you hope for? What would it be like if you wrote everything down as a letter to Germany? These questions gave rise to the concept of “Dear Germany.”

Starting from scratch

Thirty four-year-old Afghan journalist Shakila Ebrahimkhil was thrust into journalism by a cruel twist of fate: her husband was killed by the Taliban. She decided to defend herself against terrorism by working as a journalist and give a voice to suppressed people. Her topics were corruption, women’s rights and warlords.  Ebrahimkhil worked under life-threatening circumstances.

In 2016, the Taliban eventually blew up a truck belonging to the broadcaster she worked for. Seven of her colleagues died and 20 were injured in the incident. The star reporter received death threats by video. She fled to Germany and now lives with her kids in a small city in the German state of Hesse. "Although we live in safety and have everything that we need here, life is not simple. We have to start from zero," she says in her letter to Germany.  Her children already have plans: her daughter wants to learn to play football, while her son wants to become a soldier. Ebrahimkhil also hopes for a future - as a journalist. "Dear Germany, I want to become a valuable member of society and pay taxes like anyone else," she said.

Difficult terrain for journalists

With foreign assistance, Afghanistan has developed a colorful media landscape, according to media watchdog Reporters without Borders.  However, reports critical of Islam are forbidden. Above all, Islamic law and corruption are delicate topics that can draw the anger of the Taliban. Journalists are often harassed and attacked, while criminals rarely face any consequences.

Reporters without Borders counted 74 deaths among media professionals last year, with 53 of them targeted because of their work. Others died during their deployment. The most dangerous countries for journalists are Syria, Afghanistan, Mexico, Iraq and Yemen. But more and more journalists are also fleeing countries such as Azerbaijan and Turkey, Jens-Uwe Thomas from Reporters without Borders said. Critical and independent media are increasingly being shut; reporters are being threatened or being stopped from traveling abroad. "This is certainly frustrating," Thomas added.