Who is Yalda Hakim? BBC journalist gets call from Taliban on-air in stunning exclusive
Two days after the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan continues to dominate headlines as one of the biggest stories of the year. Almost all media outlets are covering the events in the country, and the Taliban clearly wants to have its side of the story told. In a shocking turn of events, Australian journalist Yalda Hakim was treated to an exclusive, when she received a call from spokesman Shail Shaheen, while on air.
Hakim wasn't the only journalist to become a news story. On August 15, CNN's Clarissa Ward was spotted in a hijab, reporting live from Kabul. The wardrobe change was noted by social media, as the Taliban began to consolidate their control over Afghanistan. As Ward reported, social media was filled with images of Afghans attempting to get on board planes bound for the west, with the chaos compared to a scene from Brad Pitt's apocalypse movie 'World War Z'.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and the administration refused to take responsibility and instead slammed the Afghans for the fall of their country. As the fallout and evacuations continue, the Taliban made it clear that they had no intention of spreading violence, or so Shaheen told Hakim. If you were wondering why an Australian-based journalist got this stunning exclusive, here's everything we know about Hakim.
Who is Yalda Hakim?
Hakin is currently the anchor and correspondent for the BBC, based out of Sydney. She hosts the show 'BBC World News Impact with Yalda Hakim' and also has a presence on the BBC's other channels and programs, including 'Impact', and 'Newsnight'. As to why the Taliban called her, it could possibly be because of her Afghan roots. Hakim's family is originally from Afghanistan, and she was born in Kabul in 1983. Her family fled the country during the Soviet-Afghan war when she was just six months old.
Fleeing on horseback to Pakistan, the family spent two years at a camp there before being sponsored to live in Australia. There, Hakim instantly took to journalism, writing for her local paper when she was just 15. She followed that with gigs at local radio stations and TV networks Nine and Ten while living in Sydney. Between 2002 and 2004, Hakim studied at Macquarie University, where she obtained a B.A. in media. Then in 2005, she obtained a Diploma in Journalism from Macleay College, followed by a journalism degree via distance education from Monash University in 2007.
While studying, Hakim also secured a cadetship with SBS News, which saw her travel to India and Afghanistan to record, shoot, and edit her own stories. In 2008, she managed to secure a full-time role at SBS, through 'Dateline'. In 2011, she became co-host of the show before leaving for the BBC in 2012. Since March 2013, Hakim has been with the BBC and traveled the globe for some path-breaking stories. She interviewed ex-Afghani President Hamid Karzai in 2013, and has frequently covered Afghanistan for both the BBC and SBS.
Shocking on-air exclusive
On August 14, Hakim was on-air conducting another interview when her phone rang. Calm and composed, she answered it before putting it on speaker for her viewers. "OK, we have got the Taliban’s spokesman Shail Shaheen on the line. Mr. Shaheen, can you hear me?" she asked. Shaheen responded with a speech promising peace. "There should not be any confusion, we are sure the people of Afghanistan in the city of Kabul, that their properties and their lives are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone. We are the servants of the people and of this country," Shaheen said.
The interview lasted roughly 30 minutes, with Hakim lobbing questions at Shaheen, without any rehearsal. The stunning interview was first made public by BBC reporter Ben Mundy, who tweeted, "Get @bbcnews on NOW... @BBCYaldaHakim interviewing Taliban spokesman - who has seemingly called her own mobile in the studio. He's on speaker phone - as Yalda steers us through #Afghanistan events superbly."
Get @bbcnews on NOW...@BBCYaldaHakim interviewing Taliban spokesman - who has seemingly called her own mobile in the studio.— Ben Mundy (@benmundy) August 15, 2021
He's on speaker phone - as Yalda steers us through #Afghanistan events superbly.
While Shaheen promised a peaceful transfer of power, he did not rule out the use of brutal punishment such as public executions and the removal of limbs. "I can't say right now, that's up to the judges in the courts and the laws," he said. The phenomenal interview led to widespread praise for Hakim, who managed to seamlessly conduct it without any advance warning. For a journalist who's been in some deadly conflict zones though, this appears to be just another day for Hakim.