Cyberbullying against Afghan women active in politics triples since the rise of the Taliban

Cyberbullying against Afghan women active in politics triples since the rise of the Taliban

Islamabad — Internet harassment and speeches of intolerance against women active in politics Afghanistan has increased considerably since the Taliban rose to power in August 2021, according to a report by a human rights group based in United Kingdom announced on Monday.

Afghan Witness, a project run by the Center for Information Resilience, says it found that abuse posts tripled — a 217% increase between June and December 2022, compared to the same period the previous year.

Having gained experience from similar investigations in Myanmar, the Afghan Witness team analyzed publicly available information on platform X, formerly Twitter, and conducted in-depth interviews with six Afghan women to investigate the nature of online harassment since the rise of the Taliban.

The document noted that the team of researchers “collected and analyzed more than 78,000 posts” written in Dari and Pashto—two local languages—targeting “nearly 100 accounts of Afghan women active in politics.”

Interviews indicated that the spread of offensive posts contributed to women becoming targets. The interviewees reported having received messages with pornographic material and threats of sexual violence and death.

“I think that the hatred they show on social networks is no different from what they feel in real life”one of the women told Afghan Witness.

Taliban government spokespeople were not immediately available to comment on the report.

The study identified four general themes of offensive posts: accusations of promiscuity; belief that women active in politics violated cultural and religious norms; accusations that the women were agents of the West; and allegations of making false statements in order to seek asylum abroad.

At the same time, Afghan Witness said it found that online harassment was “highly sexualised” with more than 60% of posts in 2022 containing terms such as “whore” or “prostitute”.

“Since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, social media has gone from being a place for social and political expression to a forum for harassment and repression, especially of women,” said the project’s principal investigator, Francesca Gentile.

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