Weekly reads from CJR for August 19, 2021

Atossa Abrahamian on transcending borders

On Tuesday, thirteen Washington Post employees and family members lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul. Some were American, others Afghan. They represented a small fraction of the 204 people who have worked in Afghanistan for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Post during the war and who, since Sunday, have been desperate to get out. For days, leaders in all three newsrooms have made appeals to the White House, asking that these journalists, who are in acute danger of Taliban violence, be extracted. “The fate of most of this group was unknown as of Tuesday afternoon, Eastern time,” Paul Farhi reported for the Post. Even more Afghan reporters—and activists, humanitarian workers, women, and countless others—remain stranded, fearing for their lives while in visa limbo or battling crowds at the airport. As the journalist Atossa Araxia Abrahamian observed, “It is so infuriating to hear people say there wasn’t or isn’t time to process enough special visas for people leaving Afghanistan under duress. Visas and processing times are a choice.”

For CJR’s “Global Issue,” Abrahamian wrote that “nations, nationalism, and nationality are about as organic as Cheez Whiz.” She cited Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, which argues that the very idea of a nation is “a capitalist chimera,” and noted that, today, “the ultrawealthy can legally buy citizenship or residence virtually anywhere they like, even as 10 million stateless people languish, unrecognized by any country.” In the context of what’s now unfolding in Afghanistan, many journalists are wondering how they can support colleagues on the ground—and remarking on the ways in which the United States appears to be abandoning the Afghan interpreters on whom its media has relied. In her piece, Abrahamian wrote about the virtues of international coverage that draws from local talent instead of sending established writers abroad: “What you gain—a cosmopolitanism that works from the bottom up—can help dispel accusations of media elitism.” At this critical moment, how does the American media perceive its community, and stand up for all its members? Much depends on our concept of nationhood—and the extent of the US government’s compassion. —Betsy Morais, managing editor


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