An Australian academic previously held hostage by the Taliban has returned to Afghanistan to “celebrate” the regime’s one year in power.
- Timothy Weeks was a teacher at the American University in Kabul when he was abducted at gunpoint
- He was held hostage for three years before being released in a prisoner swap in 2019
- He has since converted to Islam and has previously praised the work of the Taliban
In 2016, Timothy Weeks was a teacher at the American University in Kabul when he, along with his US colleague Kevin King, were abducted at gunpoint and held hostage for three years.
While locked up, the Taliban released videos of the captives, showing them pale and gaunt.
In one of the videos, Mr Weeks pleaded with then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to negotiate his release.
A prisoner-swap deal was made in 2019 that saw the two men released in exchange for three Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, who is today a high-ranking Taliban commander.
After his release, the Australian teacher converted to Islam and has previously praised the work of the Taliban.
Touching down in Kabul just days ago, Mr Weeks again reiterated his support for the regime.
“I came here with a dream to learn about Afghanistan and now I’m coming again to complete my journey, this is the part two of my journey,” he said
“I am also coming to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the governments of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, who I have stood behind.”
He was greeted by members of the Taliban, who stood alongside him as he explained that he was back in the country to continue his Islamic studies.
Mr Weeks met with Anas Haqqani, one of the men freed in the 2019 prisoner-exchange deal.
Despite being held hostage for three years — and the mammoth efforts it took by the Australian and United States governments to ensure his release — Mr Weeks insisted it was right to return.
“I was a prisoner. It wasn’t easy… I was beaten. I was kept in difficult conditions… but, after all of this, I am here again,” he said.
“It’s also not without difficulty. My family is worried but I come here because I put my trust in Allah and, secondly, in my brothers here.”
Media reports surfaced earlier this year that Mr Weeks planned to return to Afghanistan, however, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not answered questions about whether he was aware of his planned trip.
In a statement, a DFAT spokeswoman said that Australians should not travel to Afghanistan.
“The Australian government is aware of reports an Australian citizen, Timothy Weeks, may have returned to Afghanistan,” the statement said.
“Australia’s Travel Advice for Afghanistan is ‘Do Not Travel’, due to the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack.
“Australians, anywhere in the world, engaging with the Taliban have obligations under Australian sanctions law.”
People who breach sanctions can face a raft of penalties, including up to 10 years in prison or substantial fines.