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Students Attend Talk by Francesca Borri, War Reporter in Kabul


On March 9, students and Junior Fellows attended a public discussion between journalists Francesca Borri and Anna Coren at the Fringe Club in Central. The journalists spoke about the state of Afghan society, politics, and human rights after the takeover by the Taliban in 2021. Francesca Borri has reported from Afghanistan since late 2021, with her work taking her out of Kabul to places such as Kandahar and Herat. She spoke about her efforts to live outside guarded expatriate compounds and to dress in local religious garb, to facilitate more candid discussions with Taliban officials and to earn the trust of her interlocutors. She urged Western members of the audience to reflect on how in her view sanctions on Afghanistan lack clear conditions for relief, and therefore prod the Taliban regime into provocations such as the shuttering of girl’s schools, in the hope of gaining leverage in sanctions negotiations with the ‘West’. She was challenged on this by Anna Coren, who is a veteran war reporter for CNN with experience reporting on the Afghan conflict. Coren argued that the Taliban had undercut their own credibility by backtracking on earlier commitments to respect women’s rights. Audience members asked Borri about her perception of safety in Afghanistan as a woman reporter who is also Italian of Palestinian origin and conversant in Arabic, and about her thoughts on Chinese and Indian engagement policies with the Taliban regime. Borri answered in detail, even pulling memorable quotes from her own interviews.  This event was organized through the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.