Sharifa Akhlas | 1999 Courage in Journalism Award
In the early 1990s, Akhlas saw the status of women deteriorating because of hostilities in Afghanistan and began producing stories on human rights issues. And when the Taliban began instituting bans on working women in Afghanistan, she began to work secretly for the AMRC, the Afghanistan Media and Research Center, seeking international distribution of her reports on human rights, women and children.
In order to avoid detection by the Taliban, Akhlas and her family moved frequently. Her clandestine reporting was discovered more than once, in 1998 – she was arrested and beaten. Her husband and father had to promise to keep her from reporting, or face arrest themselves. Of these attempts at intimidation, Akhlas says, “I didn’t feel threatened, but found it as an opportunity to make a story.”
She subsequently escaped to Pakistan with her family, but continues to move around to avoid detection. In her current work with the AMRC, Akhlas furtively travels back into Afghanistan, risking her life to interview women and bring news to the international community. In April 2000, she was arrested and beaten after being caught by the Taliban once again. After being released, Akhlas returned to Pakistan where she reported that she would continue her work.
Sharifa Akhlas is the first Afghan winner for the IWMF Courage in Journalism Award, followed by Farida Nekzad (2008) and Najiba Ayubi (2013).