The role of ‘fixers’ in getting the story amidst Taliban threat

Filming Mightier Than The Sword in Afghanistan was, at times, risky. A Westerner like myself needs a “fixer” to ensure safety and help get the job done. I had one of the best: Shuja Momuzai, who was also my fixer when Tallulah and I were there in 2012 writing and photographing stories for magazines. A fixer acts as a translator, a driver, is skilled at diffusing potentially violent situations and is constantly on the lookout for possible attacks. One day, while driving to an interview, Shuja spied, far ahead, a lengthy convoy of sand-coloured gasoline trucks coming towards us. He immediately pulled a U-turn in the road and drove quickly back through traffic the wrong way. Such a convoy would be prime target for a Taliban attack — the collateral damage would be massive — and Shuja wasn’t sticking around.

Shuja Momuzai of Kabul
Shuja Momuzai of Kabul
Escalating attacks by the Taliban is a deeply demoralizing tragedy that has darkened Afghanistan society ever since the partial American withdrawal in 2014 emboldened the terrorist group. And it’s affecting the media. As followers of Mightier Than The Sword know, my documentary explores the power of journalism to disseminate women’s stories, thus helping pave the way towards gender equality. The media have been an accomplishment that Afghans look to with pride. But Taliban violence has caused many thousands of people to flee the country, including journalists. An attack Jan. 20, 2016 was especially crushing. A Tolo TV crew, which had boarded a company bus, was rammed by a Taliban suicide bomber, killing seven people and injuring at least 25 more.

The United States seems to be increasing militaristic action against the Taliban. Just a few days ago, on May 21, it launched a drone strike in Pakistan, a long-standing Taliban supporter, killing the terrorist group’s leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. It is a strong declaration by America that the Taliban’s wanton cruelty and attacks will not to be tolerated. In my experience, virtually everyone in Afghanistan has been affected by the Taliban. Shuja, for one, told me how, one day, he received a phone call about a suicide attack near his young son’s school. As it turns out, his boy only had a cut on his face from shrapnel. But I can’t imagine the fear Shuja endured before finding his son was (relatively) okay.
This message ends thanking all our contributors to our crowdfunding campaign to date. I’m getting super excited about finishing this documentary — as are the people I know in Afghanistan who helped record the footage. The Indiegogo campaign to raise money for post-production for Mightier Than The Sword is ongoing, and we would love it if you could consider contributing, or help to get the word out. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far!!

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