Afghanistan: Interview with Jamshid Matin X

1 June 2006
“They may actually kill me”

Presenting music on tv in Afghanistan can be a dangerous job. Recently, one tv presenter was killed, and two others had to go in exile. This is an interview with Jamshid Matin X – a presenter and producer for a daily music show and a Top 10 music show on Ariana Television Network – who fled to America because of death threats against him


Jamshid Matin X


By Ole Reitov, Freemuse


You are the second well-known music producer to leave Afghanistan during the past year. Do you see a pattern?

“Yes. There are killings and threats that some music show hosts face in Afghanistan when they try to bring new things. Some people are afraid of new things. Maybe they are afraid of losing their control and power over the people, so they don’t want anything new. The way they keep their power is by threatening and then killing the music presenters and musicians. This is not a good future for people who work to build up the music in Afghanistan. In this regard we need help from the outside world.”

When you saw that one colleague was shot last year and another colleague was threatened to death did it occur to you that you might be the next target?

“Yes, I thought I could be the next person. I had to either stop my music shows on tv, and stop journalism entirely, or leave the country in order to protect myself. When they started to threaten me that they would kill me I felt I would not be able to protect myself from them. Because they can do whet ever they want. So that’s why I came to Pakistan to get a student visa and then moved to the United States.”

What exactly happened in your case? How were you threatened, and what did they do?

“They called me several times by phone, wrote letters to me, and one evening three gun-men has came to the front of my house and asked for me. I was at the tv station, and my brother tried to talk with them. They was just said: “Where is Jamshid?! We need Jamshid! If he doesn’t come out, you will see what will happen.” My mother was watching from the balcony and she started shouting to them. Then they went away.”

What was your first reaction?

“Nothing. I couldn’t anything; just continue my job. The gun-men told my brother that if we informed the media, they would do whatever they wanted against my family. I was so afraid, I couldn’t do anything – except to start to think about leaving Afghanistan.”

How did your tv station react?

“They tried to trace the caller’s telephone number, but the phones they used were satellite phones that couldn’t be traced. Then one of the managers contacted the Interior Minister who offered to give me a gun permit so I could carry a gun for protection, but my family did not want me to do that. I didn’t want to get into a gun battle, I wanted to be a host for music show to work on music for Afghanistan for my people. A gun doesn’t solve the problem of a tv presenter or a journalist. I honestly believe Ariana Television Network did all they could do, except help pay for me to leave the country.”

Did you get any support?

I didn’t ask for any other help outside the station, because the gun-men threatened to hurt my family, if I told anyone, including the media.

When and why did you decide to leave the country?

“When my problems got more serious. When I understood that my life is in danger in Afghanistan. I understood that they may actually kill me if I didn’t leave the country. So I took the decision to leave Afghanistan as soon as I could, which I managed to do with a student visa to the United States. I contacted a tv producer I knew from the US, and he and his family helped me to get a US student visa – which I am very thankful of.”

Some people believe that modern type /MTV-like tv is just a bit too premature for Afghanistan. How is this being discussed within Afghanistan? Do some people feel that if you just progressed slowly then you wouldn’t get such strong reactions?

“This is a big question. Lots of people think it is too much, many people think it is too little. Afghanistan is a big country with lots of different people, which is OK. The problem is that some of them, if they don’t get their way, they want to kill the people they disagree with. Until there is more security in Afghanistan, this will be the same thing in Afghanistan.”

You’ve mentioned before that there is no freedom of expression for the national media in Afghanistan, and that especially women musicians do not get any chance. Was this discussed at your station?

“Yes, there is not 100 percent freedom of expression in Afghanistan. We can find freedom of expression only to some extend and only among the bravest of people. Those people need to be supported by Afghans and people around the world. Ariana TV has female and male presenters, most of the media do. They have music shows. They are trying to make progress without upsetting a lot of people. My show was very popular, the number one on the station. People across Afghanistan, and in North America where they saw it by satellite, wrote me many e-mails of support. So, the desire for change is there.

But there are some fundamentalists and warlords who do not agree for this change, and when they don’t like it they do what ever they want – because still they have their guns in their hands. If an exiled Afghan woman musician should want to come to Afghanistan for a concert or come to see her country, the first she’d be asking for is bodyguards for her security. I have seen an Afghan woman singer who came to Kabul three months ago. She had three bodyguards with their guns, because she was famous and she feared for her life. She just gave one special concert and then she quickly left Afghanistan again because she had mentioned or her press conference on her first day in Kabul that Afghanistan is not a secure place for her to be and do music.”

You are now in the United States. What are your plans?

“I have only been here for one month, but meeting many people who are interested in what’s going on in Afghanistan. The reality is very different from what the average Afghan thinks. So far, I think Americans are good, honest people. I have plan here to give speeches about media and freedom of speech in Afghanistan. The people of the world should know about this – what’s going on in Afghanistan, about the media and about freedom of speech.”

Home / News / Afghanistan: Interview with Jamshid Matin X