Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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As Taliban limits options for Afghan women, many lead secret lives online

2 min

Washington Post, 5 July 2024

The Posts reports that, “banned from secondary and higher education,” many Afghan women “attend online classes, learn foreign languages with the help of AI chatbots and e-books, and trade cryptocurrencies in the hope of becoming financially independent.” They also run businesses online. But they also worry “that these havens might be short-lived”, fearing that the Taleban might “ban social media platforms outright, (…) adopting Chinese-style controls over the internet” and being under pressure from their own families.

The article says women-run “digital businesses such as art sales and delivery services are largely tolerated by the government” while their number “remains limited”, and that “the Taliban government has not explicitly banned online educational courses and could struggle to enforce such an order, given that many providers are headquartered abroad. But teachers and students worry that they might still be at risk.”

The article quotes Zabihullah Mujahid, the Emirate’s chief spokesman, as saying that “of course we want filters that reflect our Islamic values, but it’s expensive — and right now money is tight.” He is reported as further saying, “the regime wants to stop users from ‘wasting their time’.”

“The government has signaled it plans to step up scrutiny of internet use. Anyone who buys a SIM card for a cellphone can no longer remain anonymous and must provide an identity card and the contact details of five family members”, the article says. “When authorities earlier this year began to detain women for failing to properly cover their hair, rumors spread that police were checking all phones for evidence of participation in online classes.”

The author concludes, however: “In reality, the Taliban’s capabilities on this front still appear to be limited.” He quotes Anayatullah Alokozay, spokesman for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology as saying Silicon Valley technology companies refuse to communicate with Afghan government officials. “He said his ministry has repeatedly urged U.S. social media platforms to cooperate with Taliban government requests to take down content, such as those that impersonate other accounts, but without success. Even worse, Taliban officials say, the government’s own social media accounts keep being de-platformed.”