Fact Check

Is This Journalism Before and After Taliban Takeover?

The threat to female journalists in the region is undoubtedly real.

Published Aug. 17, 2021

Image Via Meme
A set of images show how CNN reporter Clarissa Ward had to start wearing a head covering after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

These images show a single example and are not necessarily indicative of how all women reporters dressed before and after the Taliban seized power. Furthermore, Ward explained on Twitter that the "before" image showed her in a private area, and that she had regularly worn a head scarf while in public in Afghanistan. However, Ward acknowledged that she decided to wear an abaya (a full-length outer garment) and cover her hair after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

On Aug. 16, 2021, about two weeks after the U.S. withdrew troops from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters took control of the presidential palace in Kabul and seized power. This led to thousands of Afghans attempting to flee the area, and left many, especially women, fearing for their safety.

EuroNews reported:

Female journalists and activists who have worked towards amplifying the voices of women in Afghanistan now fear for their lives as the Taliban took over Kabul on Sunday in a rapid power grab. Many women journalists were in hiding after being told to return home as Kabul was taken by the armed group.

Against this backdrop, a set of "before and after" images started circulating that supposedly showed CNN's Clarissa Ward in her regular clothing before the Taliban takeover, and with much of her face, body, and hair covered afterward:

These images are real. However, they deserve a little additional context.

Ward explained on Twitter that the "before" image shown here was taken in a private compound. The reporter also said that she always wore a head scarf while on the streets of Kabul. However, Ward stated that she began wearing an abaya (a full-length outer garment for women) and fully covered her hair after the Taliban took over the area:

This meme is inaccurate. The top photo is inside a private compound. The bottom is on the streets of Taliban held Kabul. I always wore a head scarf on the street in Kabul previously, though not w/ hair fully covered and abbaya. So there is a difference but not quite this stark.

It should also be noted that Ward was not the only woman who was reporting from the ground following the Taliban's take over of Afghanistan, and that her clothing decisions were not replicated by every other journalist. Two Afghan reporters from the local news outlet TOLO News, for example, wore head scarves without the abaya (similar to what Ward would often wear prior to the Taliban take over). The founder of Tolo News' parent company tweeted a photograph of some women reporters in Kabul:

While Ward noted on Twitter that the changes weren't as stark as presented in this meme, female journalists are truly worried for their lives in the area. The Guardian reported:

Female Afghan journalists tell of a once free and bustling Kabul now filled with silence and fear as they destroy traces of their identity and work to avoid Taliban militants.

Aaisha is one of dozens of female Afghan journalists who have communicated with the Guardian over the past weeks, documenting the fall of their nation to share the devastation with the world. Now they fear that reporting without fear or favour will be the very thing that costs them their future.

They constantly receive death threats from the Taliban, and from others who agree that women should not be treated as equal.

You can see a video report filed by Ward from Afghanistan here.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.