Overseas Press Club Issues Second Tranche of Afghan Journalist Grants

NEW YORK, March 30, 2022 – The Overseas Press Club of America announces that it is making grants of $4,000 each to 17 Afghan journalists who have taken refuge in the United States, raising the total it has given to $133,000. The most recent round of grants was made possible through generous support from the Ford Foundation as well as gifts from members.

“The world’s attention may have shifted to Ukraine, but Afghan journalists are still in crisis eight months after Kabul fell to the Taliban,” OPC President Paula Dwyer said. “We’re pleased to be able to help them transition to life in America.” Of the 17 new winners, nine are women. The Hazara, Tajik and Pashtoon ethnic groups are all represented. Three winners asked not to be identified publicly because of possible retaliatory action by the Taliban against family members left behind.

The OPC first issued grants in January of up to $3,000 to 16 Afghan journalists. Those grants were made possible through contributions from the Poklon Foundation and individual OPC members. Those winners have now received fresh funds to bring their totals to $4,000 apiece. With the 17 new recipients, the OPC has now assisted 33 journalists ranging in age from 22 to 50. They live throughout the U.S., though some are still on U.S. military bases.

Many of those who received grants in the second round narrowly escaped after the Taliban seized power. “At Kabul airport, I was confronted with the ill-treatment of the Taliban, who called us as traitors and slaves of the West,” Abas Asadiyan, who worked for the Etilaatroz newspaper, wrote in his application to the OPC. “I could only think about how the 20 years of efforts of a generation of journalists were wasted and their destiny played with.”

Some of the women journalists reported even harsher treatment by the Taliban. As Zarmina Sediqi, a reporter and presenter for Khurshid TV, tried to withdraw money from a bank, the Taliban blocked her way, saying “women were not allowed to enter,” Sediqi wrote. “I told a Talib, ‘Let women go into the bank and take their money.’ He said he hated women. I asked him, ‘Do you hate your mother because she is a woman?’ The Taliban soldier stood up and beat me with his gun.” The new grantees who agreed to let the OPC reveal their names are:

1. Esmatullah Soroush, an investigative reporter for Etilaatroz newspaper in Kabul

2. Bushra Seddique, who worked for the Arman-e Milli newspaper

3. Saleha Soadat, who worked for Kabul Pressistan

4. Halima Hazara Deeba, who worked at Hasht-e Subh Kabul daily

5. Ali Shah Ahmadi, head of news at Hasht-e Subh newspaper

6. Abdul Ahad Faqeri, who also worked for Hasht-e Subh

7. Mozhgan Hussaini, another journalist for Hasht-e Subh

8. Zubair Babakarkhail, freelancer coordinator for Stars & Stripes, Al Jazeera English and other publications

9. Abas Asadiyan, reporter and editor with Etilaatroz newspaper

10. Hussain Ali Haidari, Hasht-e Subh news coordinator

11. Zarmina Sediqi, reporter and presenter for Khurshid TV

12. Hedayatullah Noori, reporter for Voice of America

13. Fatema Hosseini, who worked for Kabul Now and freelanced for USA Today

14. Fatima Hashem, editor in chief of the Khaama Press News Agency

The judging committee was chaired by former OPC President William J. Holstein and included Deborah Amos of NPR and Princeton University; John Daniszewski of The Associated Press; former OPC President Deidre Depke; William Gentile of American University; Drusilla Menaker of PEN America; photographer Robert Nickelsberg; Charles Sennott, founder of the GroundTruth Project; and Abdul Wahid Wafa, a former Afghan journalist and now a fellow at Princeton. Most of the judges are current or former board members of the OPC or its sister organization, the OPC Foundation.

Contact: OPC Executive Director Patricia Kranz, patricia@opcofamerica.org

The Overseas Press Club of America is the nation’s oldest and largest association of journalists engaged in international news. Every year, it awards the most prestigious prizes devoted exclusively to international news coverage. It was founded in 1939 by nine foreign correspondents in New York City, and has grown to nearly 500 members worldwide. The club’s mission is to uphold the highest standards in news reporting, advance press freedom and promote good fellowship among colleagues while educating a new generation of journalists.