Afghanistan's Taliban Bans Internet

Reuters, July 14, 2001

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement has banned the use of the Internet in the war-torn country to stop access to vulgar, immoral and anti-Islamic material, an Afghan news service says.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) quoted Taliban Foreign Minister Maulvi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil as saying the movement was not against the Internet as such but was opposed to obscenity, vulgarity and anti-Islamic ``stuff'' on it.

"We want to establish a system in Afghanistan through which we can control all those things that are wrong, obscene, immoral and against Islam,'' he said.

The ban also applies to government departments, AIP said.

It was not immediately known how many people or offices use the Internet in a country in which infrastructure is in ruins because of more than two decades of war. There are not many computers and most of areas do not have electricity.

Those who can afford to, including foreign aid agencies, log onto the Internet through the few telephone lines provided by neighboring Pakistan. Users, both official and private, log on to Internet service providers in Pakistan in the absence of such facilities in Afghanistan.

Muttawakil said the Taliban were unable to restrict or control the use of the Internet because access to it was through Pakistani telephone lines.

The hard-line Taliban movement follow a strict interpretation of Islam, not shared by other Muslim countries.

Muttawakil said the Taliban wanted to keep society away from trends promoting obscenity and immorality through the Internet.

AIP did not say Friday when the ban was imposed and how the Taliban planned to ensure that telephone lines were not being used to access the Internet.

But most Taliban decisions and edicts on conduct are ruthlessly enforced by their powerful religious police working under the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

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