Saturday October 20, 2018

IS restarts Radio Broadcasts in Afghanistan

The IS-run FM station, “Voice of the Caliphate,” was programmed in 2015 and was destroyed by the Afghan Government airstrikes in accordance with US.

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An Islamic State Group member. Wikimedia Commons
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After being knocked off the air by government airstrikes, so-called Islamic State group (IS) has restarted radio broadcasts into a restive area of Afghanistan.

The radio channel, which broadcasts from a remote mobile transmitter in the mountains along the Pakistan border, has returned with new programming to its lineup.  It can now be heard in the Arabic and Punjabi languages besides its former programs in Pashto and Dari, the two official languages of Afghanistan.  The programs encourage people to join IS and air religious chanting.

The IS-run FM station, “Voice of the Caliphate,” started programming last year, terrorizing locals with threats and IS propaganda.

In February, Afghan authorities said airstrikes, conducted with the support of the United States, destroyed the IS transmitting site along with its Internet communications and other facilities.

The governor of Achin district in Nangarhar, Haji Ghaleb Mujahed, confirmed to VOA that IS broadcasts are airing daily for one hour in the morning and one-and-a-half-hours in the evening. The broadcasts can be heard in the Dehbala, Ghanikhail and Achin districts in the province.

Residents say they are alarmed.

“The radio programs are anti-government, anti-people and have a very bad impact,” said one listener, Ubaidullah, who, like many Afghans, uses a first name only.

It is not clear what the Afghan government will do next. The provincial director of information and culture told VOA that the Afghan communications and technology department is responsible for looking into the matter.

Emblem of ISIS. Wikimedia Commons
Emblem of ISIS. Wikimedia Commons

And despite reports from listeners, Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the Nangarhar governor, told VOA the government has no knowledge of the broadcasts.

“We are not aware that this (radio) is back,” he said. “The radio has been shut down and does not exist.”

“If the radio has started broadcasts, it will be taken off air soon,” he said.

Related Article: ISIS eyes on the land of Tagore and Nazrul (Bangladesh)

Analysts say IS is taking a new propaganda-based tactic to help it recruit more people.

“It is a logical step from Daesh right now to put more energy into those kinds of outreach efforts,” Rebecca Zimmerman, a Rand Corporation military policy analyst, told VOA, using an acronym for the jihadist group.

IS has established a footprint in some parts of Nangarhar province, where its fighters have launched multiple attacks on Afghan security checkpoints. The Afghan government has said it is making gains against IS in Nangarhar.

Government and NATO forces recently launched offensives against IS and some areas have been cleared of IS fighters. (VOA)

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Afghan Orchestra Flourishes Despite Social Issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border.

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Afghanistan
Negin Khpolwak, leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practices on a piano at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

The consequences of Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war are weighing heaviest on the nation’s civilians, with women bearing the brunt of the violence. The Taliban banned music and girls education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when the group was controlling most of Afghanistan.

But violence and social pressures have not deterred members of the country’s nascent orchestra of mostly young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.

The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine.

Hope and music

Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, the director of ANIM and the founder of the orchestra. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, he explained.

The musicologist spoke to VOA while visiting neighboring Pakistan earlier this month with the young ensemble to perform in Islamabad as part of celebrations marking the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Kabul’s embassy in Islamabad organized and arranged for the orchestra’s first visit to Pakistan.

Despite the many challenges in Afghanistan, Sarmast said, student enrollment has consistently grown and more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music. Around 300 students are studying not only music at the institute but other subjects, including the Quran, he said.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul. VOA

Advances for women

Negin Khpolwak, the orchestra’s first woman conductor, says Afghanistan has made significant advances in terms of promoting women’s rights in the past 17 years. She says there is a need to sustain the momentum irrespective of rising violence.

“We need to stand up to protect those gains and we need to open the doors for other Afghan girls,” Khpolwak said when asked whether deadly attacks around the country are reversing the gains women have made.

But violence alone is not the only challenge for women and girls, especially those who want to study music, she said.

“When you are going in the street with your instrument to the school and they are saying bad words to you and if you are giving a concert in public they are telling the bad words to you. But we are not caring about it,” Khpolwak said.

Afghanistan
Ahmad Naser Sarmast, head of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, speaks to members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Ethnic groups help each other

Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed.

“It’s hope for the future,” he said.

Ethnic rivalries have been a hallmark of hostilities in Afghanistan and continue to pose a challenge to efforts promoting peace and stability.

“I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.

Some of the members of the Afghan orchestra were born and brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan, which still hosts around 3 million registered and unregistered Afghan families displaced by years of war, poverty, persecution and drought.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, bring instruments to a class before a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom,” Sarmast said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border. Bilateral relations are marred by mistrust and suspicion.

Also Read: OrchKids- Bringing Jot to Underprivileged Kids Through Music

The countries blame each other for supporting terrorist attacks. Afghans allege that sanctuaries in Pakistan have enabled Taliban insurgents to sustain and expand their violent acts inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects the charges.

The Islamist insurgency controls or is attempting to control nearly half of Afghanistan. (VOA)