Taliban opens Q&A on official website for readers
Embracing social media to reach wider audience
Offers advice on how to join ranks of insurgents
WORRIED about whether Islamic verses on Facebook are allowed? Or that suicide bombers kill innocent civilians? Afghanistan’s Taliban have set up a new question and answer section on their website to address such issues.
The facility on Voice of Jihad, the official website of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the Taliban’s own name for their movement – allows readers to submit queries to spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
It is a demonstration of how far the insurgents’ attitude towards technology has changed.
When they were in power the Taliban made televisions illegal on the grounds that they showed un-Islamic programs, even hanging sets from trees.
But now they have embraced social media and even have a Twitter account, as does the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), with spokesmen on occasion arguing with each other online.
Last month, Maulavi Qalamuddin, former chief of the Taliban’s “vice and virtue” squad, which whipped women without burqas and jailed men without beards, told AFP that he had two televisions in his house.
The Voice of Jihad site is packed with denunciations of the Kabul government as “slaves” or “puppets” of its western allies and often exaggerated claims of successes in the bloody, decade-long insurgency.
The answers have a consistent linguistic style and appear to be written by one person, who reveals himself to be married, middle-aged, and likes all types of halal food.
Most of the inquiries appear to come from Taliban supporters and often praise the militants.
But a poster giving his name as Haseeb Ul Rahman asked, “Don’t you think that killing all these people in suicide and bomb attacks every day is a big sin?”
More than 3000 civilians died in the Afghanistan conflict last year, more than three-quarters of them killed by the Taliban or other insurgent groups, according to the UN.
Mujahid blamed “technical problems” for such deaths.
“I can tell you with confidence that civilians are not deliberately killed by the mujahedeen [Taliban fighters], rather it happens because of technical problems or missing the targets.”
The Taliban also put their website to more practical use. One potential volunteer who did not give his name asked how to join the ranks of the insurgents.
“It’s a good question, everyone can easily join our mujahedeen,” he was told. “But you have to provide identification to avoid any mistrust.
“If you have a problem contacting the mujahedeen, please send me an email showing your region, God willing I will show you proper ways to contact them.”