Award-winning filmmaker Sonia Nassery Cole is deeply distressed knowing what lies ahead for her native Afghanistan, and particularly the country’s women, under Taliban rule.
It’s a record of brutality she knows all too well based on her travels back to the Near Eastern nation.
Cole — who escaped to the United States followed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 — has made the Taliban the subject of two feature films she wrote and directed: “The Black Tulip” (2010) and “I Am You” (2019), both based on true stories.
The latter is an official Golden Globes selection, Cole told The Western Journal, and is screening on several platforms including Amazon Prime and Apple TV+.
The movies are part of a lifetime of activism on behalf of the Afghan people.
Earlier this month, she went to the region to help coordinate the evacuation of 37 people out of the country including U.S. green card holders, interpreters, journalists, TV hosts, actors and actresses.
Cole credits former President Ronald Reagan with first inspiring her to enter the public arena.
In the 1980s, the 40th president invited her to the White House to discuss the conflict in her homeland after the Afghan refugee wrote a letter to him.
Do you approve of President Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal?
“I can’t stand anybody saying anything bad about President Reagan because my personal experience with him was incredible. He was just a man of integrity and dignity and compassion,” she said. “I am grateful to President Reagan for giving me the strength and the power to make a difference.”
Cole, then a teenager, said that the former Hollywood actor told her, “One person can change the world. Do you want to be that person?”
When the “most powerful man in the world” says something to you like that, it has an impact, she said.
Reagan encouraged her to go testify before the Senate about the plight of the Afghans, which she did.
Congress later authorized military aid, in the form of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, to the Afghan Mujahideen fighting the Soviets. The missiles helped turn the course of the war, with the Soviet Union fully withdrawing in February 1989, just weeks after Reagan left office.
Regrettably by the mid-1990s, the Taliban rose to power among the vying factions and imposed a strict form of Sharia law, which among its many rules denied women the right to work or go to school.
Following the 9/11 attacks, a U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban in 2001.
In 2002, Cole, then living in Arizona, launched the Afghanistan World Foundation and returned to her native land for the first time since her youth to begin the work of opening schools and hospitals.
It was during a trip in late 2009 and early 2010, the filmmaker learned of a sad story of a Pakistani woman she had hoped to cast in “The Black Tulip.”
Cole recounted that she first met the actress a year prior while she was sitting in the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul enjoying a cup of tea.
The moviemaker noticed a stunning woman wearing a black suit and open-toed red shoes, and remembered thinking, “My God, she’s my hero.”
“And she has this beautiful red scarf around her head. And I went to her and said, ‘Wow, you are so beautiful. What are you doing here?’” the American asked.
The woman replied, “Oh, I am an actress. I’m here for [a] tea commercial, but I live in Pakistan.”
Cole told her she was in the midst of writing the script for “The Black Tulip,” but it was anti-Taliban and Cole knew that could be a scary prospect for someone from that part of the world.
“No, I’m not scared. I already have done a movie, anti-Taliban, in Pakistan,” the woman responded.
The two exchanged contact information and kept in touch over the next year.
Then inexplicably as the date of Cole’s return to Afghanistan approached, the actress stopped replying to her messages.
Finally, when Cole arrived in Kabul and got an Afghan phone, she called and the Pakistani woman answered.
“Oh, my God, where have you been? I haven’t heard from you,” Cole said, explaining she was now in the country and preparing to shoot “The Black Tulip.”
“When can I see you?” the director asked. “And all of a sudden she just said it like that. She said, ‘I cannot be in the movie. The Taliban chopped my feet off.’
“I said, ‘What?’ I was just blown away. I just couldn’t believe my ears. And I said, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so, so sorry.’”
“I just started crying. And she said, ‘Don’t cry. And don’t leave. You’ve got to make this movie. You have to make the movie. Make it for me.’ Because she had read the script and she knew what the story was about,” Cole said.
The reason the Taliban chopped the actress’ feet off is likely because of the anti-Taliban film she had made in Pakistan, Cole believes.
Hers was not an isolated case, according to the filmmaker. The lead actor in “The Black Tulip” told Cole that he knew of two fellow actors who had had their feet chopped off by the Taliban.
“So it’s something they do. They don’t believe in art. They don’t believe in music,” Cole said. They don’t believe in statues, museums or preserving history either.
“They destroy everything,” she added. “Already. they have destroyed so many monuments in Afghanistan.”
The activist is deeply concerned about the fate of the Afghan woman, now that the Taliban is back in charge.
“This is very different than 20 years ago, because now they’re educated,” Cole told “Proud to Serve” podcast host Jack Scalia last week. “They held places in Parliament. Nine women were powerful figures in the parliament of Afghanistan.”
She noted that Afghanistan’s ambassadors to the United States and United Nations had been women.
“We were doing such incredible changes as far as women were concerned in Afghanistan, and look at them now. Look at them now,” Cole said.
She pointed to the upsetting video circulating a few weeks ago of a little girl grabbing onto the fence surrounding the Kabul airport begging the American soldiers to let her in.
“Help … Taliban are coming!” the girl screamed.
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) August 18, 2021
Cole was also in contact with a 29-year-old woman in Kabul who was trying to get out of Afghanistan.
“She went to the airport three times,” Cole told The Western Journal. “She spent two nights. On the third day, they actually told her she was going to get in. She was in line to get in the plane. And then the bombing happened and this girl went home and put herself on fire. She saw no hope. She saw no hope. The women are just — they’d rather die.”
Cole believes the Biden administration’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan the way it did is “the darkest, most shameful period in American history.”
“It was disturbing at so many levels, not only just for my country, Afghanistan, but for me, my new country,” Cole said.
“This is the place I feel the safest,” she said. “And this administration, this [President Joe] Biden destroyed that for us.”