Fears grow for photojournalist arrested by Taliban as executions resume

Taliban deny Morteza Samadi, 21, has been sentenced to death but family concerned for his safety after he was detained while covering women’s protests in Herat

Fears are growing for a photojournalist who has been detained by the Taliban for more than three weeks after being arrested while covering the women’s protests in Herat.

Morteza Samadi, 21, a freelance photographer, was one of several journalists who were arrested at street protests at the beginning of September. All were quickly released except Morteza, whose whereabouts is not known. Some of those detained in Kabul have alleged they were badly beaten and tortured.

Fears for Morteza have grown after the bodies of executed convicts were put on public display in Herat’s main squares – a draconian practice brought back by the Taliban. A veteran leader of the Taliban, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, said in an interview with Associated Press that the new government will be bringing back executions, as well as amputations as punishment for petty crimes.

After rumours circulated online that Morteza had been sentenced to death, the Taliban released a statement denying he was about to be executed and said that they would release him after he had been cleared by “national security”. Morteza’s family has only been allowed a one-minute phone call with him since his arrest on 7 September and has not received any information about what he may be charged with.

Mustafa Samadi, Morteza’s brother, told the Guardian that the Taliban have not shared any details of where or in what conditions he is being held. The family said he was arrested after Taliban fighters stopped him while he was working and found images of the protests and social media posts on his phone.

Mustafa said: “I have [had] no news on my brother’s fate for three weeks.” The family believe he may have been charged with inciting protests. “My brother has not committed any crime and should not be sentenced to death. He should be released,” he said.

The Taliban’s treatment of journalists and their attacks on free speech since gaining control of Afghanistan has drawn criticism from across the world.

On 19 September, the government announced 11 rules that imposed severe restrictions on free speech in the country, laying the groundwork for the detention of journalists.

In a statement condemning the move, the International Federation of Journalists said: “The ‘regulations’ forbid journalists and media organisations from publishing or broadcasting stories ‘contrary to Islam’, insulting national figures or violating privacy … the rules do not provide operational definitions of the terms they contain and provide ample room for individual interpretation by the country’s Taliban regime.”


Zahra Joya and Ruchi Kumar

The GuardianTramp

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