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Wakil Kohsar in Paris for the “Prix Varenne” 2022
Wakil Kohsar, AFP’s Kabul photo chief, came to Paris to receive his prize during the Prix Varenne ceremony, held this past Tuesday, March 29. He was chosen for his outstanding coverage of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power.
Kohsar was awarded the “Varenne National award for an international topic” for his emblematic picture showing a US soldier pointing his gun toward an Afghan passenger at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the Taliban rule.
“I am speechless, and I would like to extend my gratitude to all the people present here tonight. It’s an honor to have been chosen for this wonderful award. I’m so excited and happy to be here to receive this prize, but it also reminds me of that dark day in Afghanistan’s history – the night and early morning when the Taliban took over Kabul.
I remember how panic spread among Kabul’s residents. Despite my colleagues urging me not to leave my house, I decided to document these historic moments to tell the world what was happening in my country.
So, I started taking pictures. At the beginning only of empty, deserted roads. Then I heard that tens of thousands of people had rushed to Kabul airport during the night to be evacuated as they saw the Taliban entering the city. Thousands of people, without any valid visas or other travel documents, had rushed to the airport to be evacuated on any international flight they could catch. It was chaotic, a nightmare, the people in despair and the violence. I have never seen anything so heart-breaking in my entire career so far. Everything that was built over the past 20 years was collapsing around me.” he said upon receiving the award at the hands of AFP’s CEO, Fabrice Fries.
The prize was delivered by the Varenne Trust, a foundation linked to the regional media group "La Montagne Centre-France", which awards a series of prizes each year to encourage and enhance the work of journalists.
Wakil was also awarded 2021 “Photographer of the Year” by Polka Magazine.
Wakil Kohsar was born in the country’s Panjshir valley in 1985. During the civil war, he was forced to migrate to neighboring Pakistan where he lived for almost eight years. After his return to Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, his passion for photography led him to study at the Aina Media & Cultural Center in Kabul. Before joining AFP, he worked for the Moby Media Group. He has been working as a reporter-photographer for AFP for the past nine years and has been published in Afghanistan and around the globe. He became AFP's photo chief for Afghanistan following Shah Marai, who was killed on April 30, 2018, while covering an attack in Kabul.