“If I was with the Taliban now, and I saw you … I would kill you.”

According to Abdul Matin Sarfraz (MJ, 2013), these words were spoken to him in July by a former fighter for the Taliban. The two men were in a house in Sarfraz’s native Afghanistan, with guns hanging like paintings on the wall.

“I asked him why,” Sarfraz said. The man told him his main goal when he was with the Taliban was to kill foreigners and the Afghans working with them. But now, the man said, he understands the value to Afghanistan of education. ‘Why should I kill you,” he asked Sarfaz, “when you’re really good for our country, because you’re educated?’ ”

Abdul Matin Sarfraz (MJ, 2013) interviews an Afghan warlord while JMSC professor Kevin Sites (far left) takes their photograph.

Recent JMSC grad Abdul Matin Sarfraz (center) interviews an Afghan warlord while JMSC professor Kevin Sites (far left) shoots video of them.

The conversation was one of the many intense moments Sarfraz had while traveling and reporting in Afghanistan this summer with JMSC professor Kevin Sites, a veteran reporter of war and other conflicts.

Sites is currently retracing the steps he took in 2001, when he followed the Taliban’s retreat across the length of Afghanistan during the US-led NATO invasion of the country. He is writing about what he found during this latest journey for Vice.com.

[Sites’s full account of their conversation with the former Taliban fighter, “Confessions of a Taliban Fighter“, can be read here.]

Sarfraz, an MJ who took Sites’s Advanced Online Journalism course – and the first Afghan to attend the JMSC – accompanied Sites for two weeks at the beginning of his trip. He acted as Sites’s guide and translator and helped him shoot video, take photographs, and find and research stories for Vice.

“I met Kevin at the border when he crossed from Tajikistan on a small boat,” Sarfraz said. “From the border we traveled through Takhar province, Kunduz province, and then drove more than eight hours from Kunduz City to Kabul. We interviewed police chiefs, and warlords … and a woman who owns her own radio station – there are four or five radio stations now in Takhar that have women working in them … We also met wrestlers in Kunduz who were really happy to see us because it was the first time a foreign journalist came and covered their story.”

Sites said that Sarfraz’s skill as a translator and journalist, as well as his knowledge of Afghan society, were invaluable. “[I was able to get] totally immersed in Afghan culture through the help of my former student,” Sites said.

For Sarfraz, who was working as a journalist before entering the JMSC’s master of journalism program, the trip was confirmation of the plan he laid out for himself before coming to The University of Hong Kong in 2012.

“I came to HKU so I could return to Afghanistan and share the skills I learned,” Sarfraz said. “In Afghanistan the problem with education – the teachers, they teach the old books and the old information, what they taught 10 years ago, and in many classes there is nothing new. Here in Hong Kong…every day they are coming with the new information and students are encouraged and teachers give students a chance to talk a lot.”

After traveling with Sites, Sarfraz shared his new knowledge and spoke about media law and journalism ethics at a workshop set up by the Afghan Independent Journalists Association. He will be speaking about independent media and social media in Afghanistan at the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Conference in Dubai at the end of August.

Sites will finish his trip next week and return to Hong Kong to teach classes in the fall semester at the JMSC.

31 July 2013

JMSC Alum Joins JMSC Professor to Report on Afghanistan

“If I was with the Taliban now, and I saw you … I would kill you.” According to Abdul Matin Sarfraz (MJ, 2013), these words were spoken to him in July by a former fighter […]
13 May 2013

MJs Sexual Violence Awareness Proposal Wins HKU Social Inclusion Grant

Two students in the JMSC’s Master of Journalism programme have been awarded an HKU Social Inclusion Activities Grant. Anjani Trivedi (MJ, 2013) and Olivia Rosenman (MJ, 2013) won the grant, worth HK$26,000, for their proposal to raise public awareness of […]
20 March 2013

JMSC Class Launches Hong Kong’s First Domestic Worker Project

A group of students at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) has launched a new online journalism program called the Domestic Worker Project, the first of its kind in Hong Kong. The program will […]
16 March 2013

BJs Give 600 Secondary Students a Chance for 15 Minutes of Fame in “Night at the Museum”

The American artist Andy Warhol once famously said, “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes”. JMSC Bachelor of Journalism (BJ) students recently gave over 600 teenagers from 56 Hong Kong Secondary Schools […]
13 March 2013

MJ Covers One of the ‘Top Uncovered but Important Stories of Our Time’

China in Africa, a term encompassing all aspects of China’s growing relationship with the countries of Africa, is “among the top uncovered but important stories of our time”, says Professor Ying Chan, the Director of the JMSC. […]
26 February 2013

JMSC Students Launch Weekly Podcast, One of HKU’s First

Seven students in the JMSC’s Bachelor of Journalism programme have launched a weekly podcast covering Hong Kong from unusual points of view. Hillary Kong (BJ, 2013), Nicholas Leung (BJ, 2013), Raymond Yeung (BJ, 2014), Quiteria Leung […]
9 December 2012

JMSC Students Go Gangnam Style with Korean Rapper PSY

Five JMSC Bachelor of Journalism students got Gangnam Style with South Korean Rapper PSY last Friday during the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), which were held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan […]