Sign of times: Taliban jumps into the Twitter bandwagon

Written by: Biswajeet Panda
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Taliban's Twitter page
Kabul, May 17: Now this is what can be called the impact of technology rather social networking sites. The Taliban, which once had banned music, cinema and television in Afghanistan has now logged on to Twitter, the micro-blogging site that has added a whole new dimension to global communication.

The Taliban's Twitter feed @alemarahweb - a reference to Islamic statehood, carried the first message in English on May 12 stating, "enemy attacked in Khak-e-Safid", with a link to their website for more details about rebel fighters killing "at least 6 puppet police".

NATO on May 14 responded to the Taliban's Tweet by posting a response through its own Twitter feed that said, "What's that? Taliban's tweeting in English? Lies are lies no matter the language."

Taliban's embrace of modern technology is a far cry from the days between 1996-2001 when they ruled Afghanistan and had outlawed almost all electronic devices. Such bizarre was their thinking that they had passed a law stating photographs of living-beings was illegal and owning a video-player often led to public lashing.

Informing about the motive behind joining Twitter, Zabiuallah Mujahid had told AFP, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan(the name of the government they led in Afghanistan) joined Twitter about six months ago. We did it because we know Twitter is a popular social network in the West, and we want to make our voice heard. They used to hear only one-sided news about us from the invaders, but now they can know the reality."

About the modern technology he had flattering words to say. He said, "We regard modern technology including the internet as a blessing of God."

The spokesman also informed that his group had joined Facebook a few years ago, but the page was shutdown by the company.

It is not as if Taliban's embrace of modern technology is restricted to Twitter and Facebook alone. They also have their own website, for the last few years and have been posting information in Pashto, Dari, Arabic, Urdu and English. The website also shows videos of alleged coalition atrocities and footage of Taliban attacks accompanied by background music and gunfire.

They also say that they broadcast Internet radio programmes for two hours a day in some regions of Afghanistan.

Conceding that they have failed to act against the Taliban's growing clout in the Internet space, Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman of the Afghan intelligence agency (NDS), was quoted by the AFP as saying, "We have been trying to track them and prevent their propaganda activities as they are against our national interest and constitution. Unfortunately they are almost all based outside Afghanistan soil(a veiled reference to Pakistan)."

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