It used to be all the rage in Khost to keep Taliban anthems, fighting videos and other insurgent propaganda on one’s mobile phone.
Some people genuinely liked the Taliban-friendly material; others kept it on their phones as a form of insurance in case they were stopped by the Taliban.
“The Taliban check people’s mobile phones for songs and videos”, said Saeed Noor, a resident of Spera district of Khost province. “If they find anything, they will break the phone and threaten the person holding it.”
Instead of music and movies, people would load up on Taliban propaganda.
“People feel that they have to keep this stuff on their phones so that the Taliban will like them,” said Saeed Noor.
The government, however, takes a dim view of this catering to the Taliban. The prevalence of such material, many feel, makes the insurgent group seem more popular and powerful than it really is.
“The National Security Forces conducted a raid on the market about a year ago and seized the computers of those who were selling Taliban materials,” said Jahan Gul, a content dealer in the Hamam market of Khost City. “They also fined people. Nowadays nobody dares to keep Taliban stuff on their mobile phones, so the demand has decreased.”
The Taliban material comes from various sources, said Jahan Gul.
“Some people bring the content to the dealers, and the dealers can copy things from other people’s mobile phones,” said Jahan Gul. “But nowadays more and more people have access to the Internet and social media, so the demand for such things is decreasing.”
Rahmat Shah, a resident of Sabari district of Khost has had a similar experience.
“People used to have Taliban anthems as their ring tomes, but nowadays they do not want to appear to prove of the Taliban,” he said. “Instead of Taliban fight songs, they use Naat (an anthem in praise of Prophet Mohammad) and keep religious videos in their smartphones.”