Afghan media pioneer who started first all-female news network now a refugee in Wisconsin

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The doors on a military transport plane closed as it left Kabul, Afghanistan late this summer with the Samar family onboard as the Taliban strengthened its hold on the country.

The journey for the family of six took them to several stops before the plane landed with other refugees in Wisconsin and buses brought them to Fort McCoy.

“We thought that we are safe now nothing will happen," said Hamid Samar, recalling the moment the family left Afghanistan.

Few details have been shared about the daily life or identities of the refugees staying temporarily at Ft. McCoy.

"The place that we are living, our floor is like 20-30 people… five or six families living together," Samar said.

Food and supplies, he said, are easier to get at Ft. McCoy now that the distribution process has been improved.

"There’s a lot of improvement that’s happened, but on the beginning, it was very difficult, there was a lot of challenges and issues,” Samar said. “But now we are so happy.”

It’s a new daily life for the moment, after leaving behind a successful media outlet.

"We had a strong vision for our country that Zan TV should play a very important role in the society,” Samar said. “Unfortunately, everything is just gone in a very short minute.”

Samar started Zan TV, a television news station for women back in Kabul, in 2017.

His 15-year-old daughter worked as a presenter at the station, along with the other female journalists on numerous programs on the channel.

Zan TV also ran a media training program, graduating more than 200 women to enter the field.

"We know the Taliban, they will never accept, specifically, a TV station for the woman… this was something the Taliban will never accept,” Samar said.

There have been occasional posts on Zan TV’s website as their efforts have gone digital.

For now, Samar continues to coordinate with staff scattered around the world as they try to figure out what’s next.

He said the goal is to be able to come back in some form with Zan TV.

“Absolutely, that’s my vision… that’s my hope," Samar said.