Some people have no sense of humor.
Just two days after the satirical Facebook post “Kabul Taxi” posted a piece on its Facebook page that criticized National Security Council advisor Hanif Atmar, the security organs hauled in two journalists for interrogation.
The piece, called “The Children’s Choir,” alleged that Atmar’s staff was overpaid, underaged and unqualified.
This, apparently did not sit well with the NSC chief.
There was no arrest warrant, no evidence, and no formal charges. The assumed offense was that these journalists were the force behind the satirical Facebook page “Kabul Taxi.”
The actual “driver” of “Kabul Taxi” is not known — not publicly, that is. His or her identity is kept secret — for very good reason, it turns out.
Zaki Daryabi, editor of the Etilaat Roz newspaper and Jawed Naji, a writer for the Daily Open Society newspaper, posted on their Facebook pages that they were interrogated for several hours each.
“I was called by the order of the senior advisor of NSC (Hanif Atmar), they interrogated me for several hours. But neither NDS (National Directorate of Security) nor Hanif Atmar could produce documents to prove I was running Kabul Taxi.”
But the case has sparked outrage among social media users and civil society activists, who have begun their own campaign “I am the driver of Kabul taxi.”
If the government wants the person or persons behind Kabul Taxi, they say, then they can take all of us.
Dr. Hafiz Shariaati Sahar, a literature professor and a presenter on local TV, kicked off the action with an appearance on the widely popular Tolo TV.
Social media may have done the trick: the security organs were at least pressured into saying that they support freedom of expression.
Without mentioning Kabul Taxi, the NSC stated on its Facebook page that journalists had been called in for questioning on suspicion of revealing state secrets.
NAI, an Afghan NGO that works to empower independent media and promote freedom of expression, was irate at the incident. In a press release issued Monday, NAI called on the government to protect journalists, rather than harassing them:
“Today media family members do need supports of the Afghan security forces more than anything else, the Afghanistan National security council instead of creating limits on media, should plot different plan in place for saving the life of correspondents so that they could continue to their jobs with no fears.”
Others were more outspoken. With all of the problems in Kabul these days — bombs, kidnappings, once checkpoints on just about every corner, they ask, why is the NSC wasting time harassing journalists? Why not look for genuine bad guys?
The question was all the more acute because one of the journalists were detained on the day that a massive bomb killed 12 and injured more than 100 in Kabul City.
As Khalil Pazhwak, a journalist with the Daily Open Soviety newspaper, wrote on his Facebook page: “The genius mind of the National Government has taken seriously the driver of Kabul Taxi that roams in Kabul streets and has asked NDS to find them among ISI, Haqqani group, Taliban and Daesh that have seriously decided to destroy the country.”
Others decided to fight fire with more satire: a graphic animation depicting National Security Sdvisor Hanif Atmar (who uses a cane because of an old war injury) being refused a ride by Kabul taxi.
Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh is a bit more sanguine about satire.
Kabul taxi recently lampooned him as well, calling him an ineffective manager presiding over an unqualified staff.
But rather than get upset, Danesh praised the satirists on their own Facebook page:
Danesh replied: “In the world of politics, satire is the most effective way of saying something. There are lots of problems and our society, and some readers may not accept it when you write about them, but I hope you can bring change to the situation and be useful for the people.”
Whoever is behind Kabul Taxi, he or she must be relishing the publicity. The Facebook page has soared from 20,000 “likes” to more to 50,000 in the wake of the scandal.
Though it has not been clear who is or who are the writers of Kabul Taxi, but he/she has thanked people for supporting Kabul Taxi. He/she wrote “Soon there will be a shocking report published on this page. Kabul Taxi will remain and will write interesting things”
Its not on Facebook now and apparently deactivated https://t.co/lSDxhAO2X9
— Kawoon Khamoosh (@KawoonKhamoosh) September 1, 2015