Afghanistan Internet History – A Light on the Lost Parts of the Taliban Regime

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If you do some google searches about the history of internet in Afghanistan, you will definitely come up with the results that shows year 2002 the starting year for internet in the country. The content available in the Internet shows that there was no Internet access during the Taliban regime in the country but things are different than how it seems.

I work at Afghan Ministry of Information & Culture (MoIC). MoIC has Deputy Ministries of Youth, Culture, Tourism, and Information & Publication. There is a Directorate that works under the Deputy Ministry of information and publication called Bakhtar News Agency, which has more than 70 years of history in Afghanistan’s media and journalism. I was pretty much amazed when I heard an employee of Bakhtar News Agency claiming that they had Internet connection back in Year 2000 and 2001 during the Taliban regime. According to him “there were only two people in whole ministry within the employees who were able to operate a computer and that was me and my superior”. He also says that there were only two computers in the whole ministry, out of which only one of them had internet connection and only one person was allowed to use internet who was his supervisor. “My job was to type the news that was produced by the agency on the computer, put it on a floppy and give it to him, while his job was to send the news somewhere using internet” He says.

He has got no idea that through what medium they were connected to the internet as he didn’t had any technical knowledge about the networks and internet connectivity, but he says that they had a line connected to the computer and the connectivity was being maintained by his superior.

The Ministry of information and culture (MoIC) is located in the center of the Kabul City and is a neighboring building to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), which at that time was known as the Ministry of Communication. So there is a chance that there might had been internet connection from MCIT, which also points towards the fact that there might had been internet availability at Ministry of communication at that time.

According to news published on 4 July 2009 by Aljazeera news agency, the Taliban bans the use of Internet on July 2001 after declaring it against Islamic law.

There were some foreign aid agencies that were functional in the country during the Taliban regime, and there is the possibility that they would have access to the internet using telephone lines from the neighboring country Pakistan. But still; even declaring it against the Islamic law and banning it, a question arises that how the Taliban were actually monitoring that no one using Internet in the country? So even though it was announced to be against the law, people were still using internet given that there was no solution to monitor them.

And it also seemed that Internet was banned throughout Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, but still there were some NGO’s and key governmental organizations that had internet connections at that time as well, and there were some lucky peoples (like that gentleman) who had internet connection at that time and they were using internet (Lucky people, really, really lucky people).

The Internet use is growing and expanding to other regions each day in Afghanistan. Both the infrastructure and services are getting better than what it was in the last decade (though we need a lot more to change). We have 6 Telecom service providers, 54 Internet Service Providers (according to the ATRA), we have fiber connectivity, 3G, (4G on the way), 5-7 million Internet users and you can find more then 2,500,000+ citizens on Facebook. With all this limited data available about the Internet in Afghanistan, it seems like the history of Internet in Afghanistan is still not complete and someone has to find the lost parts of it somewhere from the shadows of the history. If you know anything about the lost part, please do not hesitate to share it with us by giving comments.