Note: Afghan-French journalist, Mortaza Behboudi was arrested by Taliban intelligence from Kabul six months ago after he returned to Afghanistan. He is now in the Taliban prison. Rukhshana Media has conducted an inclusive interview with his wife, Aleksandra Mostovaja.
Salik: Would you please introduce yourself?
Aleksandra: I am Aleksandra Mostovaja, Mortaza Behboudi’s wife. I live in Denmark. I study architecture at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts. I am now on sick leave because I am focusing on getting Mortaza out of prison.
Salik: Tell me about Mortaza Behboudi, how old is he, where was he born, how many years has he been living in France and in which media did he work?
Aleksandra: Mortaza Behboudi is 29 years old. He was born in Wardak province of Afghanistan. He fled Afghanistan in 2015 and has been working in Paris since then. He finished a master’s degree in international relations at the Sorbonne University.
He’s been a freelance journalist with France 2 and then for France 24. He’s worked as a journalist for 15 media companies including Insiders, BBC Persian, Aljazeera, and many more. Mortaza has traveled to Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power. We went together a little beforehand as well.
He knew it was important to talk about the Taliban coming to power and also the culture and history of Afghanistan. To be from there, to speak Persian with people to understand the context and tell the stories of the people, so that they can say what’s happening themselves, in their own words. Because he saw that when the French media went there, they didn’t really have an understanding of the culture, so misunderstandings could happen.
Salik: What made Mortaza travel to Afghanistan?
Aleksandra: He wanted to report stories, especially on the humanitarian crisis that is happening so that we don’t forget Afghanistan and don’t forget to pressure the UN and a lot of the countries to help.
Salik: How did you find out about Mortaza’s arrest?
Aleksandra: I found out very quickly. Because when Mortaza travels, when we’re not together, we write every day, and we call.
So, when he didn’t answer me, I reached out to a friend of ours that knew he was visiting and his friend told me that he’d been arrested.
Salik: Have you heard anything about his whereabouts or anything else?
Aleksandra: I know where he is. I knew from the beginning. We found out because the friend could visit him.
I know that he’s in a secret service person, an intelligence prison, General Directorate of Intelligence. I know he’s not alone in the prison and in the prison and I know he is able to read and exercise and that he’s able to get some medication because he has stress and anxiety.
Salik: Have your struggles been helpful in releasing him?
Aleksandra: Since the beginning of his arrest, I have not been alone. Hundreds of people have helped, especially journalists who he has worked with in the media. And people who have been able to get other journalists out of prison in Afghanistan. They’ve given advice on what to do and of course the French ministry of foreign affairs and UN and EU and are involved.
At the beginning of the arrest, at first we did not speak publicly about this to try to get him out. At first you can say we tried the Afghan way, but that did not work.
Then we had to do things diplomatically, but also quietly. That also didn’t work, so it was decided a month after his arrest that we should involve the press to put pressure on the Taliban.
There’s no single solution. There’s not a path that you can follow, which would mean that he’s 100% free, there’s nothing like that. This is Taliban we’re talking about, so they are quite irrational. It’s difficult to know what will work, but it feels like I have tried every single way and we are still trying, they’re still some things that can be tried out.
So, different strategies will be used until probably July. That could be away as well. I will have to see.
Salik: How Mortaza’s arrest affected your life?
Aleksandra: From one moment to another, I’ve gone from an architecture student, to becoming a diplomat, a journalist, activist, campaigner, just a lot of things. Thankfully, I’m not alone, but I can’t sleep or eat well. I’m under pressure with a lot of responsibility, it feels like I have his life on my shoulders. It is difficult. I don’t have any other choice than to fight and to give all I have to get him released, that’s really my only wish.
Salik: What is your demand from the Taliban, human rights organizations, and organizations that support the media and journalists?
Aleksandra: My demand to the Taliban is that he’s released immediately. Journalism is not a crime. He’s done nothing wrong. He’s only been a person with a big, big heart, a kind heart who only ever helped other people. He loves Afghanistan. That’s why he went back. And to human rights organizations, continue their support and the same for media and journalists to not forget him and also not forget the people of Afghanistan.
Salik: Have people campaigned and advocated for Mortaza? Have they been helpful?
Aleksandra: People have campaigned a lot. We are a thousand people, more than a thousand people, in the support committee for Mortaza. It’s not just in Paris, more than 350 people came to show their support in Douarnenez.
Now in Marseilles, a huge amount of people came to support him, I think around 300. Also in Lesbos, Greece, there was a big concert for Mortaza. There is support for him everywhere he’s been.
Salik: How did you meet Mortaza?
Aleksandra: I met him in Copenhagen. He was on his way to Greenland to make a documentary for ARTE about an orphanage. I was working part-time at a café. He came in and we started talking and he invited me to Paris after I showed him around Copenhagen. Then he invited me to Lesbos and then we went to Afghanistan together. So I really, really, really trusted him from the first moment because he has this kind of atmosphere that makes people trust him immediately because he’s just spiritually very kind.
Salik: What made you marry him? For how long have you been married?
Aleksandra: Yeah, his kindness. I’ve never met anyone who is as brave as he is, as passionate about helping people. I’ve never met anyone who has so much empathy and who is so strong. He’s really just amazing. I really miss him. For 2 years
Salik: How is life without Morteza?
Aleksandra: It’s really difficult. Just so many times instinctively, I think oh, I wish I could someone to talk about this. Or I need someone’s opinion. I need also support. I have hundreds of people supporting me, but I miss Mortaza’s help and support just in my everyday life.
No one can really replace him. He is my husband. It’s especially difficult at night because I can’t sleep so well. I imagine him at the prison alone. It’s horrible.