- Many across Afghanistan are racing to delete past online lives, fearing Taliban retribution, Wired reported.
- Evidence of progressive lifestyles over the last 20 years has Afghans concerned for punishments.
- The Taliban retook Afghanistan last weekend in a blitz-style sweep of the country’s major cities.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Many Afghans are scrambling to erase past online lives as the Taliban assume control of Afghanistan after they swept across the country last week.
While the US and other western countries continue to evacuate from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, people across the country are worried about Taliban repercussions for online evidence of living more secular lives that could upset the fundamentalist Islamist group.
According to a report in Wired, many across Afghanistan are rushing to erase their online lives, worried about photos and videos that promote education, or the work of non-governmental organizations.
However, many Afghans need that information as evidence to present for visa applications as they try to flee the country.
“The challenge is how do you balance getting information – like what’s going on at the airport, and people trying to reach you – with eliminating any evidence that a group would use to implicate you in something and take you round back to make an example of you,” Welton Chang, chief technology officer at US NGO Human Rights First, told Wired.
The report said Afghans are deleting foreign contacts from their phones and wiping data. Some have hidden documents proving they collaborated with the US, while others have just destroyed them.
It’s not just Afghans who are aware of these concerns, as USAID, a US humanitarian group, sent a recent email to partners suggesting they scan social media to wipe it of anything that could make them “vulnerable.”
In the early days of the new Taliban rule, fighters have roamed the streets of Kabul and searched homes and offices of government officials and media outlets, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Police and army posts are controlled by the Taliban, who also set up a checkpoint system throughout the city. There’s also a 9 p.m. curfew, according to the report, which also said that the insurgents were searching phones of people on the street for evidence of government contacts.
One woman who worked for the former government told the Wall Street Journal that the Taliban approached her apartment’s gate on Monday morning. In fear, she has burned all the documents tying her to the previous government, in case the Taliban raid her home, the Journal reported.
The woman said she feared the Taliban could use the government’s biometric data to track her down, according to the Journal report.
These concerns aren’t necessarily new, either. On Friday staff at the US embassy in Kabul were told to destroy sensitive materials – even items with US logos or the American flag – to prevent the Taliban from finding them.
No one knows for sure what the Taliban’s rule will look like this time around, but before the US-led invasion in 2001 ousted the group from power, the group enforced strict rules – especially for women.
During the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, women were barred from attending school and work. After the US invasion, personal freedoms across the country increased.
Now, punishments have reportedly already started. A woman from a village in northern Afghanistan was beaten to death by the Taliban after the group demanded she cook food for over a dozen fighters, according to CNN. And the group had carried out bombings and attacks during its recent rise to power.
The prices of burqas surged, as women who were desperate to make the purchase to comply with Taliban law flocked to markets and stores.
Some women couldn’t get one in time, the report said.