Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

Stuck inside of Virginia with the Afghan blues again

Seven Afghan journalists were resettled in Charlottesville, Va. — something that may have saved their lives. But they aren’t journalists any more, just wage slaves, and it’s got to hurt.

From Columbia Journalism Review (“Resettled in Virginia, Afghan journalists struggle with underemployment“):

For his whole adult life, 34-year old (Nazir) Afzali has worked as a journalist, a fixer, and a translator for news organizations that travel to report on war-torn Afghanistan. He’s been shot at, evaded capture, and dodged suicide bombings. And now, he’s one of at least seven Afghan journalists who over the past year have moved to Charlottesville through the US refugee resettlement program, only to take low-wage jobs stocking shelves or unloading trucks at Walmart, cleaning rooms or washing dishes at hotels—or, as in Afzali’s case, working as a safety officer at the University of Virginia. “I really miss the media work,” says Afzali. “It is, from childhood, my dream job. I’m optimistic that one day I will join this profession again.” Despite near-fluent English proficiency, none of these Afghan journalists has found work in their field, and their frustration is mounting as, just months after arriving, they struggle to pay rent and bills, find reliable transportation, and support their families.

Throughout the day, Afzali continuously checks his phone for news alerts from his homeland. Lately it hasn’t been good: “Twin blasts in Afghan capital kill at least 26, including nine journalists,” “Kabul voter centre suicide attack kills 57,” “Taliban kill 2 Afghan police, capture 6 troops.” The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented the deaths of at least 57 journalists and media workers in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US military invaded the country. The ensuing war and the daily challenges of local news operations blurred the lines between journalism and government-supported media.

ICYMI: Afghanistan’s murdered journalists, in the words of the people who knew them

At some point over the past 15 years, each of these Afghan journalists worked for a media company that promoted the US military or its allies, such as the Afghanistan National Security Forces, the International Security Assistance Force, or NATO. Those jobs opened the door for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) from the US State Department, allowing them to immigrate to America with their families as lawful residents. Since 2008, more than 60,000 people from Iraq and Afghanistan have resettled in the US using SIVs, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Afghan journalists in Charlottesville say it takes an average of two years for a SIV application to be approved. Once it has, they can go through one of the nine refugee resettlement agencies to actually come to the states—for Charlottesville, it’s the International Rescue Committee (IRC). But SIVs, as they’re called, are very different from refugees in many regards, not least of which is their steadily higher levels of education. According to a report by the GAO, about 90 percent of Afghan SIVs have completed high school or higher, whereas only about 38 percent of Afghan refugees have finished the same schooling. It’s that level of achievement, in part, that’s led them to expect more from life in the US.


Wed, May 16 2018 » Main Page, Media