Triple Increase in Online Abuse Targeting Politically Active Afghan Women After Taliban Takeover: Report
November 23, 2023 | by b1og.net
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 has led to a triple increase in online abuse targeting politically active Afghan women, according to a report released by rights group Afghan Witness. The report highlights that abusive posts directed at these women have tripled, with a 217% increase, between June and December 2021 and the same period in 2022. The online abuse includes hate speech, threats of sexual violence and death, and the dissemination of pornographic material. The report also reveals that the majority of those behind the abuse are men from various political affiliations and ethnic groups. This surge in online abuse reflects the Taliban’s hostility towards women and their rights in Afghanistan.
Increase in Online Abuse Targeting Politically Active Afghan Women
In the wake of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021, there has been a significant increase in online abuse targeting politically active Afghan women. According to a report released by UK-based rights group Afghan Witness, abusive posts and hate speech against these women have tripled, with a staggering 217% increase between June and December 2021 and the same period in 2022.
Abusive posts tripled since Taliban takeover
The findings of the report shed light on the alarming rise in online abuse and harassment faced by politically active Afghan women since the Taliban assumed control of the country. This increase has had a profound impact on these women, making it vital to understand the nature and intensity of this abuse.
Nature of online abuse since the Taliban takeover
Using their expertise gained from similar research conducted in Myanmar, Afghan Witness conducted an in-depth analysis of publicly available information from social media platforms, particularly X (formerly known as Twitter), to investigate the nature of online abuse targeting politically active Afghan women. Additionally, the team conducted interviews with six Afghan women to gain insight into their firsthand experiences.
Analysis of abusive posts and themes
The report reveals that the investigators collected and analyzed over 78,000 posts aimed at nearly 100 accounts of politically active Afghan women. These posts, written in local Afghan languages such as Dari and Pashto, demonstrated a range of abusive behavior. The women reported receiving messages containing pornographic material, threats of sexual violence, and death threats.
Majority of abusers are men
One significant finding of the report is that the majority of online abusers targeting politically active Afghan women are men. These men come from diverse political affiliations, ethnic groups, and backgrounds, highlighting the wide reach and prevalence of this issue.
Report by Afghan Witness
Afghan Witness is an open-source project run by the non-profit organization, the Center for Information Resilience. The project aims to shed light on and combat human rights abuses in Afghanistan, with a particular focus on online abuse targeting women. The report mentioned earlier is one of the initiatives of Afghan Witness to raise awareness and advocate for change.
Overview of Afghan Witness and their research
Afghan Witness has been instrumental in gathering data and conducting research to expose human rights abuses in Afghanistan. The organization’s previous work in Myanmar has informed its methodology in investigating online abuse in Afghanistan. By utilizing publicly available information from social media platforms and conducting interviews with victims, Afghan Witness unveils the alarming reality of the online abuse faced by politically active Afghan women.
Methodology used in the report
In their investigation, Afghan Witness collected and analyzed a staggering number of abusive posts and messages, reaching a total of over 78,000 posts. These posts were directed towards nearly 100 accounts of politically active Afghan women. The analysis focused on the content of these posts, as well as the themes and motivations behind them. By conducting interviews with victims, the organization was able to provide firsthand accounts of the impact of online abuse on these women.
Statistics on Online Abuse of Afghan Women
The statistics presented in the Afghan Witness report are both eye-opening and concerning. The increase in abusive posts targeting politically active Afghan women between June and December 2021 and the same period in 2022 is a staggering 217%. This demonstrates the alarming escalation of online abuse faced by these women in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover.
Analysis of over 78,000 posts directed at politically active Afghan women
The sheer volume of abusive posts collected and analyzed by Afghan Witness is a testament to the magnitude and severity of the issue. By examining the content of these posts, Afghan Witness was able to gain insight into the various forms of online abuse targeting politically active Afghan women.
Nature of Online Abuse
The nature of online abuse faced by politically active Afghan women is deeply concerning. Afghan Witness’ research highlights the spread of abusive posts that specifically target these women, making them vulnerable to harassment and threats.
Spread of abusive posts making women targets
The report suggests that the spread of abusive posts plays a significant role in making politically active Afghan women targets. The online abuse they face on social media platforms is reflective of the hostility they experience in real life.
Messages with pornographic material, threats of sexual violence, and death
Politically active Afghan women are subjected to a wide range of abusive behavior online. The abusive posts directed at them often contain pornographic material, threats of sexual violence, and even death threats, creating an environment of constant fear and intimidation.
Themes in Abusive Posts
Afghan Witness’ analysis of the abusive posts aimed at politically active Afghan women revealed four prominent themes that depict the motivations and intentions behind the online abuse.
Accusations of promiscuity
One of the recurring themes in the abusive posts is the unfounded accusations of promiscuity. Politically active Afghan women are vilified and shamed for their involvement in political activities, with these false accusations serving as a means to further harm and marginalize them.
Violation of cultural and religious norms
Another significant theme identified in the abusive posts is the belief that politically active Afghan women are violating cultural and religious norms. This perception allows abusers to justify their online harassment and discrimination, further perpetuating the abuse faced by these women.
Allegations of being agents of the West
Politically active Afghan women are often accused of being agents of the West, working against the interests of their country. These baseless allegations aim to delegitimize their activism and silence their voices.
Accusations of making false claims for seeking asylum
The report also reveals that politically active Afghan women are accused of making false claims to seek asylum abroad. By discrediting their experiences and motivations, these accusations undermine the women’s credibility and create additional challenges for them.
Sexualization of Online Abuse
The sexualization of online abuse targeting politically active Afghan women is a disturbing trend exposed by Afghan Witness’ research. The overwhelming majority of abusive posts in 2022, over 60%, contained explicit sexual terms such as “whore” or “prostitute.”
Impact of Taliban’s stance on women’s rights on online abusers
The Taliban’s stringent measures against women’s rights, such as barring them from public life, work, and education beyond the sixth grade, have had a significant impact on online abusers. The Taliban’s hostile stance towards women provides a license for online abusers to attack and harass politically active Afghan women, with little to no repercussions.
Impact on Women’s Online Presence
The online abuse faced by politically active Afghan women has had severe consequences for their online presence and professional lives.
Journalist deactivating social media accounts and avoiding comments
One journalist, speaking anonymously, disclosed that she deactivated several of her social media accounts and avoids reading comments, which affects her ability to effectively engage with online sources. The fear and intimidation caused by online abuse have forced these women to limit their online presence, thereby hindering their ability to voice their opinions and share their work.
Challenges in work due to online abuse
The online abuse faced by politically active Afghan women has spilled over into their professional lives. The constant harassment and threats make it exceedingly challenging for these women to perform their work without the fear of retribution. This has a chilling effect on their ability to carry out their responsibilities and contribute to public discourse.
Profile of Online Abusers
The report reveals that the majority of online abusers targeting politically active Afghan women are men. These abusers come from diverse backgrounds, including different political affiliations, ethnic groups, and social strata. This demonstrates that online abuse is not confined to a specific group but rather a complex issue that permeates various facets of Afghan society.
Taliban’s Response to the Report
As of the report’s release, there has been no immediate comment from the Taliban government spokesmen regarding the findings. The absence of an official response further emphasizes the urgent need for action to address the issue of online abuse targeting politically active Afghan women.
The Afghan Witness report highlights the distressing transformation of social media into a platform for the abuse and suppression of women, particularly politically active Afghan women. The Taliban’s hostile stance towards women and their rights provides online abusers with a sense of impunity, enabling them to target these women without consequences. The prevalence and severity of online abuse underscore the urgent need for awareness, advocacy, and concrete measures to protect the rights and safety of politically active Afghan women in the digital space.