Sunday December 03, 2023

Afghan journalist commits suicide after being denied asylum in US

June 25, 2023

ISLAMABAD: An Afghan journalist took his own life by jumping from a high-rise building in an upscale area of Islamabad, it was reported in a briefing on Saturday.

According to sources close to his family, the Afghan asylum seeker ended his life after his application for refugee status was rejected by the US government.

When questioned about the incident, the IGP confirmed the report. However, he said the deceased’s family did not inform the local police about the incident, and the police gathered information independently.

SP (Rural Zone) Hussain Tahir confirmed the report, saying that 19-year-old journalist, Sami, was residing on the sixth floor of Samama Apartments along with his brother and other family members. Sami was born on April 10, 2003 in Badakshan, Afghanistan. He entered Pakistan on November 3, 2022, January 7, 2023 and May 25, 2023, on his last trip.

Sami, who had a P1 referral case to the US, had been waiting for years for his case to be processed. He had hoped to seek asylum in the United States but faced a two-year wait. The reason cited for his suicide was the rejection of his asylum request by the United States.

Earlier in April 2023, Samiullah Jahesh, another journalist, said he was ready to sell his kidney to provide for his family after being unemployed for over a year after fleeing Afghanistan for Pakistan.

After the Taliban took control of the country in 2021, driving hundreds of thousands of Afghans from their homes, many journalists, including Jahesh, sought refuge abroad.

While some managed to find safety in Europe or the United States, those who remained in Pakistan are now facing increasingly dire conditions. Their visas are nearing expiry and the slow relocation process to a third country has left them unable to secure employment.

Meanwhile, Afrasiab Khattak, a former senator, took to Twitter and addressed the United Nations and the Pakistani government, questioning why these displaced Afghans, who fled their country due to the collapse of former government and ensuing humanitarian crisis, were not being recognised as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Government of Pakistan.

In late 2021, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) contacted the Committee for Journalist Protection (CPJ) on the situation faced by journalists trapped in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule.

As a result, a committee consisting of senior journalists from the PFUJ was formed, and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Press Club (NPC) and CPJ.

Consequently, several journalists and their families were relocated to the United States after being granted asylum.

The PFUJ later established a three-member committee called the Pak-Afghan International Forum (PAIF), which comprised senior journalists with expertise in Afghan affairs and the challenges faced by journalists in Afghanistan.

Attempts to obtain response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) were unsuccessful.