Can the Afghan underground “tavernet” survive the Taliban?

When the Taliban captured the city of Herat on August 12, Yassin and his colleagues suggested that Taliban invasion forces would soon take over their own city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

“It was also more stressful in Mazar, so I and another computer Kars Mazar, who are working together, held a secret meeting to decide what to do to protect all of our content, ”he says. Among them is an informal union of computer Kars he had several hundred terabytes of data collected over several years, and many of them would be considered controversial by the Taliban – even criminal.

“We all agreed not to remove, but rather to hide the most vile content,” he says. “We reasoned that in Afghanistan these regimes often come and go, but our business should not be disrupted.”

He’s not too worried about being discovered.

“People hide weapons, money, jewelry and so on, so I’m not afraid to hide my hard drives. They can never find [them], “he says.” I am a 21st century boy and most of the Taliban live in the past. “

Less than 20 years since former President Hamid Karzai made his first mobile phone call to Afghanistan, almost 23 million mobile phone users in a country of less than 39 million people. But internet access is a different matter: by early 2021 9 million internet users, a lag largely attributed to widespread security concerns, high costs and a lack of infrastructure development in the country’s mountainous terrain.

This is why the computer Kars like Yassin can now be found throughout Afghanistan. Although they sometimes download their information from the Internet when they can establish a connection, they physically transfer most of it on hard drives from neighboring countries – the so-called “sneakernet”.

“I use Wi-Fi at home to download music and apps; I also have five SIM cards for the Internet, ”says Mohibullah, another car who asked not to be identified by his real name. “But the connection here is unreliable, so every month I send a 4 terabyte hard drive to Jalalabad and they fill it up with content and return it a week later with the latest Indian movies or Turkish TV series, music and apps,” for which, he said, he pays between 800 and 1,000 Afghani ($ 8.75 to $ 11).

“People hide weapons, money, jewelry and so on, so I’m not afraid to hide my hard drives. I am a 21st century boy and most of the Taliban live in the past. “

Mohammad Yassin, computer car

Mohibullah says he can install over 5 gigabytes of data on a phone, including movies, songs, music videos and even courses, for as little as Afghani 100, or $ 1.09. “I have the latest Hollywood and Bollywood films dubbed in Dari and Pashto. [Afghan national languages], music from all over the world, games, apps, ”he told me in early August, a few days before the Taliban came to power.

Not only that, Mohibullah helps clients create social media accounts, customize their phones and laptops, and even writes emails for them. “I sell everything from A to Z content. Everything except “100% films,” he said, referring to pornography. (He later admitted that he has a few “free videos,” another nickname for porn, but only sells them to trusted customers.)

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