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Taliban Forces Australian Reporter to Tweet Dictated Apology Over Her Articles About Sex Slaves

The Taliban has forced Australian Foreign Policy magazine reporter Lynne O’Donnell to apologize for articles she wrote about them forcing teenage girls into marriage and sex slavery.

After leaving Afghanistan, O’Donnell said that the tweets she posted on July 19 were dictated to her by the Taliban under the threat of prison.

“l apologize for 3 or 4 reports written by me accusing the present authorities of forcefully marrying teenage girls and using teenage girls as sexual slaves by Taliban commanders. This was a premeditated attempt at character assassination and an affront to Afghan culture,” O’Donnell said in the first tweet.

In a second tweet, O’Donnell wrote, “These stories were written without any solid proof or basis, and without any effort to verify instances through on-site investigation or face-to-face meetings with alleged victims.”

The tweets prompted immediate alarm from other journalists, who began to question if she was being held hostage.

On June 20, after apparently leaving Afghanistan, O’Donnell confirmed that the tweets were written under threat from the Taliban.

“Tweet an apology or go to jail, said #Taliban intelligence. Whatever it takes: They dictated. I tweeted. They didn’t like it. Deleted, edited, re-tweeted. Made video of me saying I wasn’t coerced. Re-did that too. #TwoTakesTaliban (I’m out now) #Afghanistan #journalism,” she wrote.

The reporter has long been outspoken about sex slavery under the Taliban, writing about it for Foreign Policy in July of last year and discussing it on a podcast in August, 2021.

“According to people in Saighan district, in the central highlands of Bamiyan province, the insurgents beat some men who tried to resist and forced some residents to show them closets of clothing to determine the ages of the girls and women who lived there. Among the women whose names they took down were widows of men killed fighting with the Afghan military against the insurgency,” O’Donnell wrote in her report. “Terrified women packed what they could, hired cars and goods carts, or simply walked to escape what some described as their worst nightmare—being kidnapped and forced into sex slavery by the Taliban.”

Recent articles critical of the Taliban include the headlines, “The U.N. Knows Afghanistan Is Messed Up. But It’s Keeping Mum” and “A Modest Proposal to Save Afghanistan—From Itself.”

O’Donnell was previously the Afghanistan bureau chief for Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press from 2009 through 2017.

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