There was only one female journalist at the Taliban’s first official press conference this week and her bold question to the group of armed men who took over Afghanistan’s capital shocked the world.
Charlotte Bellis was the first person in the media scrum sitting before the Taliban on Tuesday to ask a question, her blonde locks peeking out from underneath a face covering.
And it centred around how they would respect the rights of thousands of terrified Afghan women.
Ms Bellis has worked for Al Jazeera, an independent news organisation funded partly by the Qatari government, from Afghanistan since 2019.
The experienced reporter, originally from New Zealand, was the only female journalist allowed to attend the Taliban’s first official press conference. And she didn’t waste the opportunity.
Journalist Charlotte Bellis has won the hearts of women all over the world after she directly asked the Taliban what rights would be afforded to the thousands of terrified Afghan women
In footage of the tense event Ms Bellis appears calm and measured as she introduces herself to Afghanistan’s new rulers and asks her hard-hitting question.
‘I want to talk to you about women’s rights and girl’s rights, about whether women will be allowed to work and if girls will still go to school,’ she said.
‘What assurances can you give to women and girls that their rights will be protected?’
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman at the event, assured reporters that the ‘Islamic Emirate’ would give women their rights as long as they followed Sharia law.
‘Women will be afforded all their rights. Whether it is at work or other activities because women are a key part of society,’ he said.
‘We are guaranteeing all their rights within the limits of Islam.’
Charlotte Bellis (pictured) has worked as a reporter for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan since 2019
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (pictured) assured attending reporters that Afghan women would be afforded all their rights as long as they followed Sharia law
Ms Bellis’s pointed question is what thousands of distraught Afghan women have been asking themselves since the Taliban seized control of their homes and lives.
Late on Sunday night, rifle-touting insurgents swarmed the presidential palace and declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the desk of ousted President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the city one day earlier.
The following day, at least eight were killed at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport including two who were shot dead by US troops, three who were run over by taxiing jets and three stowaways who fell from the fuselage of an airborne C-17 US Air Force plane.
Chilling reports out of Kabul claimed militants were going door-to-door trying to track down locals accused of helping Western forces during the Afghanistan War and subsequent 20-year intervention from the US, Britain and Australia.
Reports also claimed Taliban gangs were hunting for girls as young as 12 for sex slaves, reminiscent of the violence women and young girls experienced almost 20 years ago during their previous Islamist regime.
Women and female children were previously locked inside their homes and forbidden to leave for education or work, the Australian reported.
Ms Bellis’ mere presence at the conference and her ability to directly question a Taliban spokesman could be observed as a small beacon of hope for women (pictured, Zabihullah Mujahid, center, speaks at the first press conference in Kabul)
Female Afghans are still feared to be among those most at-risk under the new government due to strict religious laws that brutalised and oppressed women and girls (pictured, Taliban fighter patrols in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on Wednesday)
Ms Bellis’s mere presence at the conference and her ability to directly question a member of the Taliban could be observed as a small beacon of hope for women.
However, female Afghans are still feared to be among those most at-risk under the new government due to the strict religious laws that were imposed by the Islamists after they came to power in 1996.
There have also been reports of women who have been shot dead for wearing tight clothes, escorted home from work and told not to return, and in some areas forbidden to walk the streets without a male chaperone.
Ms Bellis told AM Radio the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul on Monday had been ‘surprisingly friendly’, but warned it still had a hit list.
The reporter said a few of her friends had bought guns but many more had fled, despite the Taliban vowing they want no bloodshed.
Ms Bellis said people only had to look to other regions that have been under the clutches of the Taliban for a while to understand the reality of the situation.
‘There have been stories verified of atrocities – things like targeted assassinations,’ she explained.
‘They have a hit list and they kill people on it and make no apologies for that.’
Ms Bellis (right) said the arrival of Taliban forces in Kabul on Monday had been ‘surprisingly friendly’, but warned it still had a hit list they would make no apologies for
Ms Bellis said there is ‘no chance’ US forces will enter Afghanistan which she believes is what prompted president Ashraf Ghani to flee the country (pictured, thousands of Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport to leave Kabul on Monday)
Ms Bellis said just last week she became aware of one of her colleagues names on the hit list and told the Taliban it would be ‘unfortunate’ if they killed him.
The man simply suggested her colleague call ‘the hotline’ to secure amnesty, however if the immunity will be delivered still remains unclear.
Ms Bellis said there is ‘no chance’ US forces will enter Afghanistan which she believes is what prompted president Ashraf Ghani to flee the country.
However the journalist added the lack of foreign money will hold the Taliban back from governing the country.
‘They want legitimacy – that’s why they didn’t take Kabul by force and it’s why they’ve stopped at this point so they don’t fall down,’ she said.