Prisoners © Photo by Ye Jinghan on Unsplash

Afghanistan: The Taliban must immediately release YouTuber Ajmal Haqiqi and his colleagues

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Responding to the arbitrary arrest of YouTuber Ajmal Haqiqi and his colleagues yesterday on charges of “insulting Islamic sacred values” after they posted a video in which they allegedly used Quranic verses in a humorous manner, Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, said:

“Arbitrarily detaining YouTuber Haqiqi and his colleagues and coercing them into apologizing because the Taliban de-facto authorities were offended by the video is a blatant attack on the right to freedom of expression. The Taliban must immediately and unconditionally release the YouTubers and end their continued censorship of those who wish to freely express their ideas.”

The Taliban must immediately and unconditionally release the YouTubers and end their continued censorship of those who wish to freely express their ideas.”

Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner

“Restrictions to the right to freedom of expression must be clearly provided by law and be strictly necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim. International human rights law does not permit restrictions of freedom of expression simply on the grounds it has the potential to offend or insult nor for the protection of religious beliefs or the religious sensibilities of their adherents. This incident is a classic example of how the Taliban is creating a climate of fear in Afghanistan by using arbitrary arrests and coercion to force people into silence.”

“Since assuming power, the Taliban have been using intimidation, harassment, and violence on anyone who has expressed support for human rights or modern values, especially human rights defenders, women activists, journalists, and members of academia among others. As the de facto authority, the Taliban must abide by international human rights law and respect everyone’s right to freedom of expression without discrimination.”

Background

Ajmal Haqiqi is a model and social media influencer based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Last week, a video was posted on Haqiqi’s YouTube channel in which he along with three other colleagues allegedly used Quranic verses in a humorous manner. On 5 June 2022, Haqiqi posted another video apologizing for the previous video.

On 7 June 2022, the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence arrested Ajmal Haqiqi and three of his colleagues on charges of “insulting Islamic sacred values”. Later in the day, a video ‘confession’ of Haqiqi was released where he again apologized.

Since 15 August 2021, Amnesty International has documented various instances of such arbitrary detentions often accompanied by coerced statements in an attempt to stifle dissent in the country and deter others from expressing their views