The Taliban’s return to power caused many visual media to cease operations, and some continued their activities under severe censorship dictated by the Taliban. This situation caused people to turn to other platforms for entertainment or to receive fresh and uncensored news. This shift paved the way for several YouTubers and TikTokers to flourish at once and attract many audiences. One of the YouTubers who has a large audience is Humayun Afghan. Previously working at Ariana TV, he has been producing content for his personal YouTube channel for the past two or three years. Following the emergence of the Taliban Emirate, he increased his activities significantly, often walking among the citizens and the market in search of interviewing those whom he thought would attract the audience. Despite his repetitive, impromptu, and intemperate questions, the viewers can infer from the conversations about the current situation of the country and the living conditions of the people, their worldviews, thoughts, and behavior. Perhaps these interviews will be more notable for those who live abroad and are eager to know the situation of the country and the conditions of the citizens who live inside. Watching some of Afghan’s YouTube videos made me analyze and express my general opinion about them.
The Proliferation of Poverty
The initial issue detected from these interviews and conversations is the accelerating spread of poverty in the country. Poverty and misery which are prevalent among Afghan people are being further exacerbated since the return of the Taliban and the excessive increase in unemployment in Afghanistan. In these interviews, it is often seen that the majority of people complain about unemployment, and lack of money while calling on the Taliban officials to provide work for the people. In these videos, you can see dynamic youths and potent men sitting on the side of the roads and spending their day and night in desperation and inertia. In his videos, several old and sick men are seen to be willing to do arduous labor to get by. Several street vendors who on the surface look like daily wagers, in reality, are seeking help from well-off and benevolent people. Everyone is expressing complaints about the difficulty of life, simultaneously asking God to address their problems. This YouTuber attempts continuously to present the situation as normal but the damages are so rampant that they cannot be ignored and covered.
Fear of Criticizing the Taliban Government
Another evident and noticeable fact seen in the interviews of this YouTuber is the fear of people telling the truth that may displease the Taliban. On his part, this YouTuber himself is trying to prevent telling truths that harm the Taliban. The interviewer often exhibits the situation as normal, trying to prove that the current regime is more optimal, efficient, and free of corruption compared to the former republic. This is despite the fact that in the previous regime, people spoke out against the government fearlessly, exaggerating and inventing when pointing out the flaws and problems. They were not afraid of the government’s revenge, maintaining to express whatever they wanted to. In one case, it can be seen that no one dares to openly criticize the ruling regime and ask its leaders to take responsibility for the existing disorders. People refrain from addressing very trivial issues that could infer opposition to the Taliban. In several cases, in these videos, it is observed that people complain about unemployment. Still, due to fear of being accused of opposing the Taliban, they are forced to talk about the virtues of the Taliban regime and express gratefulness to God for bringing the “Islamic government” to work. These behaviors certainly stem from the fear of the Taliban, and if the space is open, those who thank the Taliban regime will speak in a different tone and accent. The Taliban have silenced the voices of their critics and opponents by creating intimidation. However, this terror has been obtained at the high cost of killing thousands of people and prisoners and torturing tens of thousands of other people. In establishing their desired order, the Taliban resorts to any means, ignoring any restricting factors.
Whitewashing the Taliban
The Taliban possesses several official and well-known YouTubers who are engaged in whitewashing this group. Although Humayun Afghan is not an official and public supporter of the Taliban, in some cases, following the YouTubers of the Taliban, he promotes in favor of the Taliban. It is not clear if he is doing this to gain the support of the Taliban or if he believes wholeheartedly in what he presents on his YouTube to whitewash the Taliban. He always emphasizes that security is ensured under the Taliban rule and people commute freely without fear of theft, asking the interviewees to repeat the same words. Looking at the issue critically, the truth is that most of the insecurities in the former regime were rooted in the Taliban’s actions. This group committed suicide, explosions, and assassinations, without differentiating between civilians and military. They targeted everyone equally and disturbed the physical and psychological security of the citizens. Another issue that we should ponder is at what cost the security has been ensured by the Taliban. They have killed thousands of people without due process on various charges. The Taliban soldiers reserve the right to shoot dead anyone whenever they want. Not long ago, the Taliban killed four citizens during the day at a checkpoint in the Dar-ul-Aman neighborhood of Kabul and were not held accountable. Such issues have occurred repeatedly many times. Taliban soldiers never go through punitive procedures for arbitrarily killing people. The assassinations that happen now and then in the provinces of Afghanistan, and it is not clear who is responsible for them, question the alleged security of the Taliban. Such security is worse than insecurity. In the definition of security, psychological security is also included. Security that is achieved by creating fear in the hearts of citizens is not security, it is the worst form of torture.
It is worth mentioning that apparently, Humayun Afghan is a relatively reliable person in the lense of the Taliban. In the first days of the fall of Panjshir, he managed to travel to that province and provide a detailed report. However, from one point of view, we can praise his courage for venturing to Panjshir in that tense situation. He never wants to challenge the Taliban’s narrative. However, challenging the Taliban’s narrative is not an effortless task and may be fateful. In this sense, his behavior can be understood and justified.
Humayun Afghan sometimes interviews poor people in the streets and markets and then asks the viewers to help him. Helping the poor is noteworthy, but the main question is why the roots are not addressed as well as the factors that caused this widespread poverty. Why do The Taliban, who are currently in control of political and economic affairs, not launch any initiatives to save the people from poverty and misery? The report of the World Bank revealed that due to the strict policies of the Taliban, the Afghan economy is collapsing. The fact is that the vast majority of people in Afghanistan currently depend on two sources: the aid of international charities and their family members who live and work abroad. If these two sources of livelihood are cut off, some citizens in Afghanistan may die of starvation.
If you walk in the streets and bazaars of Kabul city or other cities of Afghanistan in the morning, you will come across a great deal of young and middle-aged people who are desperately sitting or standing in the alleys or on the side of the roads. In the long run, people’s dependence on external assistance makes them idle and self-indulgent, preventing them from taking action and institutionalizing the culture of being a burden in society. In Japan, the culture of working is reported to be so ingrained that companies are sometimes forced to stop their employees from working overtime. Valuing work in Japanese culture has paved the way for extraordinary progress. As long as unemployment is not strongly disregarded in society, it is complicated for people’s economic and living conditions to progress seriously. The help given to the poor, if done continuously, makes them unwilling to work and toil and sweat.
Perseverance and Combating Despair
What stands out from time to time in the clips that Homayoun Afghan presents on his YouTube is the fact that the people of Afghanistan do not lose hope under any circumstances and do not stop trying to improve their lives. Religious beliefs and perceptions also help them in this way. If religious beliefs do not have any other function, they do alleviate anxiety and worry and mitigate hardships and suffering, thus further attaching poor and weak people to them.
In the last few decades, the people of Afghanistan have experienced one of the protracted wars. This war has left devastating consequences, transforming the whole structure of society. There are few people in the world who, like the people of Afghanistan, have not suffered a mental breakdown and kept themselves stable and firm despite suffering so much. In the YouTube videos in question, you see people who are in the worst living conditions, but by saying “God is kind” and “we hope God will bring light”, they downplay the problems and hope for a better future.
Despite countless defects that can be attributed to the culture and behavior of the Afghan people, not giving in to despair is one of the good and inspiring habits and is an advantage to shaping the future of Afghanistan. In the culture of Afghan people, despair is an undesirable and demonic concept. There is also a common proverb among them that says, “Despair is the devil.”
Humayun Afghan currently possesses substantial facilities and expertise to provide better and higher-quality content. He should take into consideration the opinions of his audience, identify the weak points of his works, and fix them. By applying new initiatives and removing shortcomings, he can participate in the matter of informing and raising awareness by using the platform he has at the same time to attract more audiences to his YouTube channel and thus pocket more money. Afghanistan now needs people who will take the risk and expose the unseen and unheard things. Repetitive interviews and stereotypical questions do not lead to a solution.