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Filmmaker Hassan Fazili Flees Afghanistan in search of a Home where he can speak freely after Taliban threatened him with Death over one of his Movies

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In 2014, despite decades of conflict in Afghanistan, and several recent militant attacks, the country's capital was home to a vibrant youth scene of musicians, artists, athletes and activists. Hassan Fazili opened a cafe for artists and filmmakers, but threats from the Taliban forced him to shut it down. -VOA
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Filmmaker Hassan Fazili fled Afghanistan last year in search of a home where he could speak freely. After, the Taliban threatened him with death over one of his movies.

But Fazili, who moved to Serbia, will nevertheless be voiceless at a German film festival next week, when his work will be screened but he cannot attend because of his refugee status.

The Censored Women’s Film Festival, opening Monday in Berlin, plans to show his short fiction film, “Mr. Fazili’s Wife,” a 10-minute drama about a single mother who fights expectations that she will become a prostitute.

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It is a rarely expressed critique by an Afghan man on patriarchy in Afghanistan.

Women’s issues

Fazili, 37, said he began making movies about women’s rights a decade ago after marrying his wife, Fatima, who in Afghanistan’s conservative society had been prevented from going to school.

“I must do something to raise up this issue to the world,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation Friday from Belgrade, speaking Farsi through an interpreter.

He took up filmmaking and also taught his wife, who has become a filmmaker in her own right, he said. He opened Kabul’s Art Cafe and Restaurant, hoping to provide space for men and women to meet and discuss art and politics openly.

But in 2014, police and religious authorities began a crackdown that forced him to close the cafe. At the same time, the Taliban criticized his latest film, “Peace in Afghanistan,” and the death threats started.

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“I received phone calls saying that they will kill me making movies like this,” he said.

From Afghanistan to Serbia

While living in Afghanistan, Fazili said he was forced to turn down invitations to show his films in the United States and Britain because of visa restrictions.

He had hoped this time would be different.

“It was really important for me to be there, to know what people get from this movie,” he said.

Fazili is one of about 6,400 migrants from Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan in Serbia, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

They have been stranded in the Balkan country since border closings prevent them from moving further into Europe. Film festival organizers said they have petitioned UNHCR to allow Fazili to make the trip.

“We are desperate for Hassan to come to Berlin and share his story,” said Paula Kewskin, a festival spokeswoman.

Serbian authorities could not be reached for comment.

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Not part of the conversation

But Fazili said he is resigned to missing the opportunity to present his work to an international audience. His regret is that now, freed from persecution and bent on making women’s rights heard, he still is not part of the conversation, he said.

“They might have questions about the movie and, as a director, I’m supposed to answer the questions,” he said. “But we can’t do much from here.” (VOA)

 

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Pakistan Agrees To Cooperate With The U.S. To Achieve Peace in Afghanistan

Khan said Monday that Trump wants Pakistan to use its influence to nudge the Taliban to participate in Afghan peace talks.

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Imran Khan, Pakistan
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan renewed Wednesday his resolve to cooperate with the United States to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan, now in its 18th year.

Khan made the remarks during a meeting with the visiting U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

“The prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s abiding interest in achieving peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through political settlement,” Khan’s office said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday and held delegation level talks with senior foreign ministry officials before paying the courtesy call on Prime Minister Khan, officials said.

Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan”s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The U.S. envoy’s visit followed President Donald Trump’s formal request for Khan’s help in finding a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

“U.S. leadership looked forward to working with Pakistan in furthering the shared goal of peace through a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani statement quoted Khalilzad as saying.

The Trump administration has tasked the Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul to persuade the Taliban to join an Afghan peace process for ending the protracted war.

U.S. and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of sheltering Taliban leaders and allowing them to orchestrate attacks inside Afghanistan. Islamabad rejects the charges.

Afghanistan, USA, Pakistan
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, center right, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad,center left, meet in Kabul. VOA

Khalilzad is on an 18-day trip to region, his third since taking office, and plans to visit Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, UAE and Qatar, where the Taliban maintains its so-called political office.

During his previous two trips to the region, Khalilzad also traveled to Qatar and held marathon meetings with Taliban representatives there. He has held talks with Afghan politicians inside and outside of the government in Kabul.

Taliban officials insist that in talks with the U.S. they are seeking the withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from the country before agreeing to join an intra-Afghan peace dialogue.

In a statement issued Tuesday, insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they “will not tolerate foreign occupying and military presence under any circumstance.”

Mujahid also dismissed reports that Khalilzad is discussing with the Taliban possible future political dispensation in Kabul and other related issues.

 

Taliban, Afghanistan, Pakistan
Taliban fighters are seen gathered in Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

 

“The formation of a government, establishing security and developing Afghanistan is a matter concerning the Afghans. No foreign occupying force has any legal right for determine the fate of Afghanistan, interfere in its matters or make comments as a proprietor,” said the Taliban spokesman.

Khalilzad has shared few details of his talks with the Taliban, though he said last month he was “cautiously optimistic” about achieving a peace deal.

Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. have dipped to historic lows in recent years over allegations of supporting the Taliban and other militants in the region. President Trump’s letter to Khan on Monday was a rare positive development in the fragile bilateral ties.

Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, chosen to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command told Senators on Tuesday that Pakistan’s assistance is key to finding any solution in Afghanistan.

“It is in Pakistan’s long-term interest to have a government in Afghanistan that is stable that they can do business with. It will be hard to reach a settlement without some form of assistance from Pakistan,” McKenzie said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,, pakistan
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

Islamabad has long urged in talks with the U.S. that rival India’s growing influence in Afghanistan was a matter of concern for Pakistan. Pakistani security officials blame Indian intelligence operatives for supporting anti-state militants planning terrorist attacks in Pakistan from Afghan soil, charges both Kabul and New Delhi reject.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Trump Seeks Pakistan’s Cooperation For Bringing Peace in Afghanistan

“I believe Pakistan knows very clearly that their assistance will be required to reach an end state in Afghanistan. I think the chance that we have is to make it attractive to them so that they see that it is in their best interest to do that,” noted the U.S. commander.

Khan said Monday that Trump wants Pakistan to use its influence to nudge the Taliban to participate in Afghan peace talks. (VOA)