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‘Use perfume, prioritize hygiene’; social media buzz about Afghan minister’s remarks

One year after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the de facto government’s first deputy commander and the head of its paramilitary arm, appears to have taken an interest in matters related to men’s cleanliness and health.

Abdulhaq Omeri, a free-lance journalist and former TOLO News correspondent, claims that Haqqani was seen on camera lecturing Taliban fighters and sympathisers on the need of personal hygiene and the use of perfume. When writer Nazrana Yousafzai, who is based in the US, re-shared Omeri’s video from Monday on Twitter, it received feedback from a number of other people on the social media network.

Haqqani, who was born in 1979, has been a senior Taliban member since the late 2000s and is said to have been responsible for the kidnapping of American journalist David S. Rohde as well as a number of terrorist incidents in Afghanistan. He became the Taliban’s first deputy commander when Kabul fell in August 2021 and continues to manage the Haqqani network, the de facto government’s paramilitary branch.

Increased social media engagement initiatives;
The Taliban has been actively working to generate engagement and support on websites like Twitter and YouTube with the aid of content producers and propagandists. Haqqani’s video has been going viral on social media as part of this endeavour.

Taliban leaders like Haqqani have their finger on the pulse of what are considered acceptable narratives for the international community, as well as the road ahead to a gradual normalisation of the regime, as explained in an article in ThePrint by Kabir Taneja, fellow at Observer Research Foundation’s Strategic Studies Programme. Taneja quotes a post by Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai from the Global Network on Extremism and Technology that claims the Taliban has been ‘increasingly using’¬†social media to spread its beliefs since 2011.

After seizing control of Afghanistan, the Taliban used ‘reconciliatory techniques’¬†on Twitter (despite being blocked from other social media sites) to enhance their reputation as claimed populists while still enforcing its dictatorial militant policies offline. Although the Taliban or its allies did not directly publish the men’s health and hygiene video on Twitter, Taneja and Yousafzai have suggested that it may be a component of the Taliban’s indirect Twitter engagement strategies.

 

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