While FRONTLINE correspondent Najibullah Quraishi was filming an interview for the new documentary â€œTaliban Takeoverâ€ with Mahbouba Seraj, one of Afghanistanâ€™s leading womenâ€™s rights advocates, something unexpected happened.
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As the above excerpt from the documentary recounts, another woman entered the building, photo in hand of her 22-year-old granddaughter, who had gone missing and, the woman feared, might have been abducted by the Taliban.
â€œShe said: â€˜Mom, I donâ€™t know where theyâ€™ve taken me. The Taliban are around me. I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s happening. Theyâ€™re asking me if Iâ€™m engaged. If not, they can marry me to someone,â€™â€ the visitor told Seraj and Quraishi, describing the last phone call her granddaughter had made to her mother.
Unable to help and worried her visitor would be out after dark, Seraj encouraged the woman to return home. Once the woman had left the building, Seraj â€” who was named one of TIME magazineâ€™s most influential people of 2021 â€” turned to Quraishi, her voice rising, her anger apparent.
â€œI cannot protect her,â€ Seraj said. â€œI cannot protect any woman.â€
The remarkable scene â€” which unfolds in “Taliban Takeover,” premiering Oct. 12 and excerpted above â€” is a stark window into the fear and uncertainty many Afghan civilians, especially women and ethnic minorities, face in the wake of the Talibanâ€™s return to power and the U.S. withdrawal after 20 years of war. FRONTLINE has hidden the identities of the woman seeking help and her granddaughter for their safety.
Seraj told Quraishi that despite the Talibanâ€™s quick moves to clamp down on womenâ€™s rights, she wants the new government to engage with her on the issue.
â€œI cannot tell you how much I want to really talk to them. I am here in Afghanistan, I want to tell them, and Iâ€™m not going anywhere. Iâ€™m sitting right here,â€ said Seraj, who had recently passed up a chance to leave the country. â€œBecause the women, the 18 million women of Afghanistan, are not dead, and the 18 million women of Afghanistan, they really need a voice. And I will be that for as long as I can. And I would love to sit down with them and talk to them. I would really love to.â€
But in the moments after the womanâ€™s visit, Seraj felt powerless.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing I can do,â€ she said. â€œThereâ€™s nothing I can do.â€
“Taliban Takeover” premieres Oct. 12, 2021 on FRONTLINE: https://to.pbs.org/3iQYHTp
For more reporting in connection with this investigation, visit FRONTLINEâ€™s website: https://to.pbs.org/3iQYHTp
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â€œTaliban Takeoverâ€ is a FRONTLINE production with Clover Films. The correspondent is Najibullah Quraishi. The producer is Jamie Doran. The senior producers are James Jacoby and Molly Knight Raskin. The executive producer for Clover Films is Jamie Doran. The executive producer for FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.
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