An angry mob in Kabul accused a young girl of burning the Holy Quran, beat her to death, threw her dead body to the Kabul River and set it on fire. Some people took videos of this horrible act, and uploaded them on to social media. In less than 24 hours, a whole nation was as though suddenly awakened to the plight of this women and others who face male brutality in Afghanistan. There were rallies and protests across the country and abroad, with demands for justice for Farkhunda, the young lady who was wrongfully lynched to death. Was this an impact of internet and social media?
In the recent years, social media has brought about a big change in communication and the way information is shared all over the world. Media, internet and social media have eased things for various classes, especially the youth. It has helped draw attention to events going around them, sometime facilitative important social discussions and impacting big change.
Afghanistan has also witnessed a tremendous rise in the social media users. According to statistics from the second Afghan Social Media Summit, there are around 1.2 million Afghans using social media platforms. Most of the users are youth and the number is rapidly increasing.
In the recent years, most of the protests and civil activities, especially protests in Kabul are managed via social media platforms and most of the protestors appeal for support and send invitation through social media.
Two years ago NAI (Supporting Open media in Afghanistan) officials stated during the Social Media Week that social media is turning into a medium of great influence and that government, with all its power, fears this. According to NAI, government officials are scared and don’t want to name the Social Media Week in the Afghan Calendar.
In a recent statement, NAI also informed that not only has the number of social media users in Afghanistan increased, but web users have also learned how to best utilise these platforms to their benefit. They have participated in political and social issues via social media and helped bring about tangible change.
Take for instance how social media worked in Farkhunda’s case, elaborating the influence of social media in Afghanistan.
After the incident, the 119 helpline of the police department asked citizens to help locate the killers of Farkhunda. They put an announcement out on their Facebook page appealing, “Please! If you have any video clip or picture from the scene, share it with us, so that it can help us find the killers of late Farkhunda”.
دوستان محترم وگرامی!با ابراز سپاس از همکاری های دوستانی که درقسمت افشای چهره عاملان قتل فرخنده کمک کرده اند ، لطفا اگر …
Within 24 hours of the first announcement, they released another statement on their website saying, “119 Police are thankful of your cooperation to track the killers of Farkhunda. With your help, we were able to arrest 22 suspects.”
Dear Countrymen!The Ministry of Interior appreciates your cooperation in sharing information regarding the martyrdom of…
Most of those who had filmed the scene shared their videos on social media and shared it with each other. And even though most of these videos were filmed on smart phones, people helped identify some of the attackers. People who knew the faces in videos called 119 Police department and disclosed the identity of some killers. Some of them disclosed their social media accounts. It is not clear how many videos and responses 119 Police received from the citizens, but nevertheless it goes to shows how social media could help facilitate a platform for those civilians who had the information and will to help the police.
The Director of Investigations Department in the Ministry of Interior said that tracking the killers of Farkhunda with the help of people was of most important. He said that the evidence and documents given to police by people played a vital role in finding the perpetrators. He added they were able to arrest 30 individuals with the help of people. He also asked the citizens to help them find the rest of the attackers.
And yet, despite this evident influence that the new media has in Afghanistan, there are many who continue to undermine its impact on the real world. Take for instance the spokesperson to the Kabul police who was sacked for supporting the killers of Farkhunda on a post on his Facebook page.
Similarly, there were others such as the Deputy Minister of information and culture, Simin Ghazal Hassanzada who, in their initial reaction to the incident. expressed their emotional views against Farkhunda, earning the ire of the many Afghan web users. Following wide condemnation by this empowered section of the Afghan society, they were forced to retract their statements and issue apologies.
Irrespective of what you believe to be the human and legal aspects of Farkhunda’s death, the events that followed has displayed the ability of social media to empower common citizens against uncivilized and primitive forces that our country faces every day.