in afghanistan beyond his deadline at the end of the month, if more time is needed to get every american out of the country. it comes four days after the taliban takeover, which prompted thousands of people to try to leave. the head of the pan american health organization has called on the international community to provide urgent medical personnel and equipment to haiti, following a devastating earthquake on saturday. the disaster is now known to have killed nearly 2,000 people. hundreds of firefighters have spent a third day battling a fast—moving wildfire near the french riveria. it's the latest in a string of deadly fires to affect the mediterranean in recent weeks, during intense heatwaves. scientists have blamed the impact of man—made climate change. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk.
welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. taliban leaders in kabul are engaged in careful message management — amnesty for all, no safe haven for foreign fighters, and respect for the rights of women and girls, they say. but then the rider — under their islamic law. now, it's too early to know what taliban governance 2.0 will look like, but it is clear many afghans are fearful. my guest is kamila sidiqi, a trail—blazing women's activist, entrepreneur, and former government official in kabul. is her cause lost? and where does the blame lie?
kamila sidiqi in germany, welcome to hardtalk. hello, thank you so much. you're welcome. it is a great pleasure to have you on the programme. now, if we'd been talking to you a week ago, we would have been talking to you in kabul. now you're in safe haven in bonn, germany. tell me exactly what prompted you to flee kabul, and how did you do it? i was in kabul and my trip to london was on 20, my ticket was on 20 next week. suddenly, this... i heard a lot of the news that most of the people left kabul. and in the night, i received
a message from my friend, gayle lemmon. and we exchanged a lot of messages and she support me to be in one of the private jets from kabul with another delegation from kabul, and we can manage to leave kabul and come to germany. how much fear did you experience during those chaotic hours when the taliban swept into the afghan capital? you clearly felt that it was no longer safe for you. how fearful were you? it was really, really difficult and i was very concerned, especially about myself and also about my family. early in the morning, when i heard the news, i left the home and came to the airport. it takes a lot of time to get to the plane. it was a really tough time.
i received a lot of messages from different friends and people from town that the taliban came to kabul, and most of my friends, they left their houses and they sent a text message to me that, "where are you?" i was in the airport. it was a really, really difficult time for me. now, kamila, you refer to your friend gayle, who helped make arrangements to get you out, and of course, gayle wrote the book the dressmaker of khair khana, which was about your extraordinary life — as a young woman, you set up as a dressmaker and you then found a way to help other women in kabul living under the taliban in the 19905 to make a living out of sewing and dressmaking. yours is an extraordinary story — you are, let's face it, a very famous afghan woman who has worked in government, you've worked in business. do you think you wouldn't have got out, had you not had these contacts outside the country?
yes, i really, really appreciate gayle�*s support and the other colleagues that helped with gayle. it was really difficult for me if i stay in kabul, because, as you mentioned, there is a book, the dressmaker of khair khana, that during the taliban, when the taliban came to afghanistan, i started a small business with two of my sisters in my home and then we create jobs for 150 other women, especially there was two girls that their father was talib, and the two girls was working for me. and then i started other businesses in kabul, consultancy, export and import, and transport company, before ijoined with the government. then ijoined with the government, i was working as a deputy chief of staff foradmin and finance in the palace for three years.
and then ijoined with the ministry of commerce, so was the deputy minister for two years. and the lastjob was, i was acting minister in the ministry of commerce. it was very difficult for me to be in kabul if i couldn't contact with gayle and the other team that they helped me. yes, i want to talk to you about your thoughts on the afghan government, the senior politicians you worked with, including president ashraf ghani, later in this interview, but right now let us focus on what is happening hour by hour in kabul. you still have, of course, family, friends, business associates that you've left behind in kabul. i know you've only been in germany for a very short space of time, but are you getting information and messages about what is happening, particularly to the many women that you have worked with in the afghan capital? since two days that i left the country, i left kabul and i'm in germany, i'm not able to talk with my family and check with them. i was very busy with my connection and other women
that they are especially women activists. majority of women activists are in kabul and they were not able to leave the country, i'm so concerned about them. i received a lot of messages and a call from these people. i really try to help them. and my family is there and my father is there. i'm really, really concerned, not only about my family, about my people, my people in afghanistan. i think it's very important to help them right now, that these people should leave from kabul. but, for the future of the country, it's not a solution that everybody left the country. i wish the international community and the world can support afghanistan to bring peace there and people can stay in their own country. kamila, i'm sure you, like all of us, watched 2a hours ago, the senior taliban spokesman, zabiullah mujahid, guarantee respect for the rights of women.
he said, and i'm quoting him, "we are committed to the rights of women under the system of sharia. there'll be nothing against women in our rule. if they continue to live according to sharia, we will be happy, they will be happy." what was your response to those words? as you know, we are muslim and we respect a lot to our sharia, and also to islam. and the women of afghanistan, most of them are educated, and they know that we respect islam and we will be very happy if they gave a chance for women to work and go to university and study and give their rights, that god gave us this right. i think it's very good news... kamila, sorry to interrupt, but can you take a single word said by a taliban spokesman seriously, given your long experience in the country and your experience of living under taliban rule before?
yes, the taliban forget that 50%, or more than 50% of the population of afghanistan, i think it will be a big problem for them, especially the women that are working in the education sector and also in in health. and, right now, they are active in different sectors in afghanistan that will be difficult for them to run the country. so your feeling is that your colleagues, the women you've worked closely with in the empowerment of women in business, you've got so many friends and colleagues still in kabul and other parts of the country, do you believe over the next few days and weeks they will continue to go to work, they will continue to live their lives as they did before the taliban took control of the country?
as you know, that the social media has a very active role in the community. as i discussed with many women, they are so happy and they are very hopeful that after all this news and also commitment that taliban gave to women. but, if we look at what is actually happening on the ground, there are some positive things and some negative. if we start with the positive, it is indeed true that women appear — as long as they are wearing full hijab — to, at the moment at least, to be going to work in kabul. we see that women presenters are on tolo news and other news networks, and that has to be a positive sign. but there are also serious signs of problems — pictures, horrible graphic pictures, of one woman shot dead in takhar province, reportedly because she wasn't properly covered. we've seen other pictures of women holding up protest signs in kabul. are you inclined to be
optimistic or pessimistic right now? when i see the news that tolo news and i saw the young journalist that she was on the tv, and also one of the famous and educated women who i understand on the facebook that she had an interview in tolo tv. it was really a big hope for me and i'm very optimistic that women can be part of this development in afghanistan or women can work with the taliban in the future. you, in the course of your career, have worked with many western ngos and indeed with the government of the united states as well. the us state department, just in the last 2a hours, organised the release of a joint statement which involved, i think, around 20 countries expressing grave concern for the rights of women, urging those now
in power in afghanistan to guarantee their protection. i just wonder how you felt about that, given that the us—led coalition has frankly headed for the exits with great speed in afghanistan over recent days and weeks, when they release a statement like that, do you take it seriously? erm, yeah, it's very important that the us and the other international community and other countries support afghan women and think about the whole achievement that we have since 20 years of international community, that you, as people, be with us and support women. i'm sure they will get support of taliban, as well. why are you so sure? in a way, i'm quite surprised by the way in which you're
trying to be so positive right now. after all, as a young woman, you had to work in secret back in the 1990s. you then enjoyed new freedoms when the taliban were removed from power. why are you feeling that there is something positive right now? because the women that i know today, the women are not the women that we were 20 years ago. if you see, there is a lot of educated women, professional women, that have a very important role in the governments of afghanistan and also in the different sectors of afghanistan, different sectors like education and health and all other business and different sectors. i'm sure, as i have believed, that without women it's not possible to run the country and to be in the politics.
in this case, i'm very optimistic that educated women will not sit at home this time and they will find their way to work in the government, and also continue their education and go to school. that's very interesting what you're saying, kamila. you're suggesting that afghanistan, its culture, and the role of women has changed so much in the last two decades that the taliban will simply be unable to turn back the clock? yes. i mean, are you suggesting that women, if they are told to no longer go to work in certain sectors, if the taliban tries to impose controls on women and girls, are you saying that women should resist? as you see the taliban announce for all the employees of the government, women and men, to go and join and start their activity and work. i think this is a big change, if you compare from the time 20 years ago. taliban also knows that there
is a lot of educated women that they can work in the government and they can be in very important positions to support the country and be part of the development of this country. are you looking to go back as soon as possible to resume your business career and your ngo activities? sure, i will go back. the day that i feel that i can work there and my country needs me, and there is a lot of women that need me and my experience, definitely i will go back to afghanistan. let me ask you about the politics of afghanistan in recent years. you made your name with your business and then you became involved in politics. you, actually, for a short while, i think, were working as deputy chief of staff to president ashraf ghani. now, just a few days ago,
he was seen fleeing, running away, reportedly with cars and a helicopter stuffed with cash. is that surprising to you? it was really, really surprising to me, because i know the president. and my hope, when he started the work, and ijoined with them, he was a completely different person with a different idea. and i never, never expected this situation that today i saw. if we go through this step by step, there is a school of thought in afghanistan that ashraf ghani and, perhaps, his first deputy, vice president amrullah saleh, they refused over many months to countenance bringing the taliban into a power—sharing government. 0nce donald trump had made the decision to pull us forces out, the americans wanted
the afghan government to bring the taliban in, it seems, into some sort of power—sharing arrangement. ashraf ghani repeatedly refused. you have been close to some of these people. do you think that was a mistake? i think if you compare today's situation where the president left the country, it was very good to discuss a new negotiation and do more attention to the peace process. taliban come to power after the peace process negotiation. that will be so good, if you compare with today. a lot of family, they lost their children, members of theirfamily, a lot of people. one day before i came to germany, i was at a lot of refugee camps and i saw there was a lot of family that don't have food and they have a lot of difficulties. i think, if the president accepted this negotiation
before, we can control all this accident which has happened and the great problems for people. did you see corruption first—hand? because the americans are convinced, as they've audited the roughly $2 trillion that they've spent on military and civil assistance in afghanistan, they are convinced, they know, that vast amounts of money were creamed off. there have been various banking scandals. now, you're a successful businesswoman, you also worked in the ministry of trade and you also worked directly for ashraf ghani. so, i'm going to ask you bluntly and directly, did you see endemic corruption going to the very top in afghanistan? i didn't see, directly, the corruption myself, but i see a lot of results of the corruption that create problems for people.
a lot of corruption that stopped the development of the country. some of the corrupt people, like a mafia, they get their power and day by day, they get support. i don't know how they can manage, but when i worked with the president, he always talked with us that we have to fight the corruption. he was a different person. he always, always discussed with us how we can control and how we can stop the corruption. as i have very good achievement in the ministry of commerce and also in the office of president, there is a lot of people that respect me because we work very, very honestly with the government and also in the private sector. if i go back to afghanistan and i start my work, i will be honest and i will work with the honest people. corruption is something that
really, really created a big problem in our country. in a way, i'm surprised by your surprise because, like so many aspects of this afghan story over the last week, when people say, "oh, my god, i didn't see this coming," you know, when you start to unpick it, you wonder why? here are the words of the former afghan mp and former ghani spokesperson, elay ershad — i dare say you know her. she now says, "i would call ashraf ghani a gutless person. i'm so angry, i don't have words to explain. i wish i could just look in his eyes and tell him, i was a woman and i stayed here, while you ran away." do you feel that the same level of anger toward ashraf ghani? if i ask myself honestly, i'm looking for the president that i know — he was a different person. he had a different feeling for the country. and he was an honest person.
i'm looking to find that president — where is that president? believe me, because since three years that i was working with her, the corruption and fighting with corruption was the first — the first things that we focused a lot. kamila, i don't know whether you had a chance in germany to watchjoe biden address the american people, but his message to them was simple — that america was no longer prepared to spend blood and treasure propping up an afghan government and an afghan military that was no longer prepared to fight for its own survival. i just wonder what you make of what the americans have done. if i think honestly, my expectation was very high from america because, as a younger girl when they came to afghanistan and the situation changed and we got a lot of support and we had a lot of achievement from the support of america.
i think it will be very good if they stay for a longer time, especially for the peace negotiations — should be with a good result. and that was my expectation, that americans shouldn't leave us like this, because there was not only a matter of the politics, there was a lot of women with a lot of achievement that are living in kabul, and we had a big expectation from america. the americans say that, ultimately, their afghan mission was about protecting america from islamist terrorism, not about freedom and human rights in your country. do you feel abandoned, betrayed, by the americans? as you see, women in afghanistan received a lot of support, especially in women's rights and human rights. 0ur expectation was different,
that america will continue their support for women, especially for those women, professional women, that have a lot of achievement during 20 years. my expectation was very high that america would stay for some time, especially by the end of the peace negotiation, because right now, women are faced with a lot of challenges and a lot of difficulties in kabul. kamila, i want to end with a thought about the future. right now, it seems there's a split inside afghanistan. former president hamid karzai is, it seems, reaching out to the taliban and wants to pursue negotiations about some sort of political joint venture. 0n the other hand, we have the former first vice president, amrullah saleh, who has taken to the hills and is talking about armed resistance. what do you believe now is the best future for your country?
i think if we think about the future of afghanistan, all these leaders, like hamid karzai and amrullah saleh, everyone should come together and sit and discuss, and find some solution and work with taliban to have a strong government, because we really need to solve the afghanistan problem between all these leaders and afghan people. kamila sidiqi, i thank you so much for talking to us from bonn, in germany. thank you. you're welcome. thank you so much.
hello. it feels a little bit like our weather has been sulking so far this week — kind of stuck in a rut of grayness and lingering cloud. it's not in a great hurry to get out of that position through today, either. we did see some sunshine on wednesday across central and eastern england, and i'm hopeful we will see some for at least a time today — this break in the clouds ahead of a weak weather front coming in from the west. so through the morning, some sunnier skies working their way eastwards, perhaps something a bit brighter behind that band of showery rain further west for the afternoon. but still, a lot of cloud for many of us, and temperatures a little down on where they should be for the time of year. a few heavier showers roaming around through the evening, but overnight, guess what — it's all pretty quiet and light winds, a lot of cloud, quite misty and murky around
the coast and for the hills. friday daytime, looking at that chart, you think, oh, things might start to get moving. well, not in any great hurry, i'm afraid. this weather front will push some rain into northern ireland through the day, throwing some showers towards wales, as well. potentially, though, with a little bit of a strengthening southerly breeze, we could break the cloud up a little bit more across southern and eastern england. looking pretty gloomy and murky there across scotland and generally across the northern half of the uk. for the weekend, however, this low will make a bit more of an effort, and friday into saturday, this front pushes slowly further eastwards. the notable thing that it does, though, is drag up some warmer air from the south for central and eastern england. so after a week where temperatures have sat below average, we could actually see some significantly warmer weather, at least briefly this weekend. but there is a price to pay. saturday, we will see, i think, temperatures getting up into the mid—20s across central and eastern england
with some sunshine. but coming into the west, some heavier and more persistent rain, some strengthening winds, as well as that area of low pressure finally gets down to business. for sunday, even more widespread showers, i think, as the low pressure sits across the uk. and we start to lose that southerly airstream as the low shifts, temperatures edge down yet again. a bit drierfor monday, but still a little on the cool side.
this is bbc news. i'm sally bundock with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. president biden says us troops could stay in afghanistan beyond the end of the month, if more time is needed to get every american out. the taliban strengthens its grip on power, as many afghans try to flee their country. who will help us? the people of haiti hit by saturday's powerful earthquake, say there's still no assistance. thousands are moved to safety as firefighters continue to battle blazes from greece to the french riveria. and the prosecutor in the trial