Reporters on the Job

Interviewing the Taliban : Reporter Suzanna Koster's interview with four Afghan Taliban fighters began when she heard through a Pakistani friend of a friend that he knew someone renting a house to 15 Taliban fighters.

"As friendship is important in Pashtun society, the house owner agreed to ask for an interview with the Talibs on my behalf. He warned me, however, that they would not open the door to a foreign female journalist," says Suzanna.

But several phone calls later it was set up. "We sat on red cushions on the floor of a two-room mud house alongside a dusty road. It was dark inside, with only a single ray of light coming through a small window," she says.

Initially, they wouldn't even admit to being Taliban. One of them, Mustafa, told her that he sympathized with the Taliban, but had personally had "no opportunity to wage jihad" against NATO and Afghan forces.

The fighters were also concerned by the fact that Suzanna was both a woman and non-Muslim. "I spent a lot of time persuading them that I was trying to show both sides of the story and wanted to get their view. I was interested in a long-lasting relationship, and getting them arrested wouldn't accomplish that."

Going back and forth from English to Pashto, she finally convinced them of her sincerity. "Hilal, a Taliban commander, was the first to open up. That gave the green light to the other three Talibs present to talk," she says.

There were some anxious moments during the second day of interviews. "The sound of a motorcycle outside was followed by a knock on the door. One Talib went outside and closed the small wooden door. Everyone quietly waited for him to come back. It was a false alarm. It was just the commander returning to the house via motorcycle."

David Clark Scott
World editor

cultural snapshot
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