Danish Siddiqui: A Fierce And Seasoned Photojournalist Gone Too Soon

Rest in power, Danish Siddiqui.

In his quest for peace and justice, an Indian photojournalist associated with Reuters, Danish Siddiqui, was killed in Afghanistan on July 16. Following this, on July 18, his body was laid to rest at around 10 pm at the graveyard inside Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi, India. Siddiqui was covering the clashes in the Kandahar region between Afghan troops and Taliban militants. 

Mortal remains of Danish Siddiqui arrive in Delhi, to be buried at Jamia Millia Islamia graveyard. (PTI)

The photojournalist and an Afghan senior officer were killed during a Taliban crossfire offensive in a vital border crossing with Pakistan, as Reuters has stated. During these last weeks, Afghan special forces have been fighting to take back the main market area of Spin Boldak.

Siddiqui’s murder has caused great commotion in India and around the world. It is a huge loss for those who knew him personally and for the rest of the people who got through his remarkable work and photographs a real glimpse of what was going on during the Afghan war, India’s devastating second COVID-19 wave, and the refugee crisis of the Rohingyas.

“We are urgently seeking more information […] Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband, and father, and a very dear colleague”, Reuters president Michael Friedenberg and editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni have expressed.

The loss of this Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist is a direct result of the intrusive foreign US policy and the Taliban’s radical actions to regain control of the country. This fundamentalist Islamic militia-controlled Afghanistan from the mid-90s until the US invasion in 2001. Now 20 years later, in a much-applauded political move, US President Joe Biden has decided that the US troops must withdraw from the territory. They will pull out not in the future, but by August 31. The side effect of his decision has been the Taliban’s rapid retake of the territory.

People carry the dead body of photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, who was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban, during his funeral at Jamia Millia Islamia graveyard in New Delhi, Sunday, July 18, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Why withdraw now?

After 20 years of US presence in Afghanistan, there has not been a military victory and the US meddling in this foreign territory is no longer justified. Finding the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks has been long accomplished: US forces got hold of Bin Laden and partially put an end to terrorism. There is no longer an atmosphere of fear and war on terrorism as in the early 2000s.

US President Biden has now taken matters into his own hands and has been a firm supporter of pulling out all troops from the country. He considers the mission to be completed “in the sense that we have finished with Bin Laden and prevented terrorism from being generated in that part of the world”, specified President Biden.

Additionally, a longer stay in Afghanistan will not translate into a greater US triumph. “There will not be a mission-accomplished moment [referring to former US President George W Bush’s words about the Iraq war in 2003]”, said the spokeswomen of the White House, Jen Psaki.

The Taliban are gaining control of the territory

Although Biden has been seemingly confident that the Taliban will have a hard time regaining control of the country because there are fewer Taliban militiamen than well-equipped Afghan forces, we have seen Taliban advances across the country. Siddiqui’s killing is just a prelude to how the situation could deteriorate down the line.

The Taliban have managed to seize border posts from Afghan forces, such as the crossings with Iran, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan raising international concerns and press coverage. It has also been reported (but not confirmed) that 4 days ago the Taliban have raised their flag above a

key border post between Afghanistan and Pakistan and claimed that it is now under their control.

How many people must be killed to put an end to the ongoing Afghan conflict? How many journalists must be killed in the name of freedom of the press and information while doing their jobs? Do we have to watch unfold a civil war? The Afghan future seems increasingly worrying and uncertain.

As of now, Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, has promised that the lost territory to the Taliban will be won back and that Afghan forces will crackdown this militia. On the other hand, Taliban militants are now in talks with the Afghan government but seem unwilling to stop their attacks and establishing peace with the already-tired Afghan civilians.

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