Pulitzer Prize Winning, 41-year-old, Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed last week on 16th July on assignment with the Afghan Special Forces that had been fighting to retake the main market area of Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city in a Taliban crossfire.
In April, Joe Biden announced that all troops in Afghanistan would be withdrawn ending “America’s longest War”. But, the withdrawal only resulted in an increase in attacks by Taliban insurgents resulting in controlling a third of all 421 districts and district centres in Afghanistan. It is argued that the ongoing clash could possibly lead to a civil war. In the recent weeks, Taliban gained several strategic districts, especially along the borders of Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. A Taliban spokesperson claimed, “We have almost covered 85 per cent of Afghanistan and will soon cover left 15 per cent." On the issue of women in Afghanistan and women fearing the Taliban rule, he said, the Taliban will allow all rights to them. It is not true. We will give all the rights to the woman and people of Afghanistan that they deserve," he said. There is no doubt that the intensity of Taliban insurgency escalated after the withdrawal of US troops leading to a lack of protection of the press.
Danish Siddiqui's last story was about a mission in which Afghan commandos were trying to extract a wounded policeman trapped by Taliban insurgents on the outskirts of Kandahar. Siddiqui told Reuters he had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel while reporting on the clash. He was treated and Taliban fighters later retreated from the fighting in Spin Boldak, however it was when he had been talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked again.. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban had not been aware there was a journalist reporting from the site of what he described as a "fierce battle" and that it was not clear how Siddiqui had been killed.
33 journalists were killed in Afghanistan between 2018 and 2021, the United Nations said in a report this year.
I shoot for the common man who wants to see and feel a story from a place where he can’t be present himself.’ – Danish Siddiqui
41-year-old, Indian photojournalist Danish, was shot dead last week while documenting the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday described the death of noted photojournalist Danish Siddiqui as a “great loss to the journalism fraternity”. Saad Mohseni, the CEO of Afghanistan's MOBY Group (media company), described Siddiqui as "an extremely brave and talented journalist" and said his death "tragically demonstrates the dangers that journalists in Afghanistan face for doing their jobs."
In 2018, he won the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography. He won it alongside colleague Adnan Abidi and five others for their work documenting the violence faced by Myanmar's minority Rohingya community. The Pulitzer board cited the "shocking photographs that exposed the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced in fleeing Myanmar."
"While I enjoy covering news stories - from business to politics to sports - what I enjoy most is capturing the human face of a breaking story," Siddiqui had told Reuters. In addition to his work covering the Rohingya and Afghanistan, he also shot pictures for the news agency during the war in Iraq, the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests of 2019-2020 and the deadly earthquakes in Nepal in 2015.
Recently, his photos of mass funerals held at the peak of India's devastating second wave of COVID-19 went viral and won him global praise and recognition. However, his photos have been faced with hate speech amongst Modi supporters who claimed that Siddiqui ‘’portrayed India in a bad light”. Unfortunately, religion also played a role in the narrative and many BJP supporting people were celebrating his death as a Muslim with the propaganda that he was supporting Pakistan.
We at Rethinking Refugees, honour Danish’s work in bringing the truth to people with no fear. We will strive to bring his work alive.