Facebook bans Afghan Red Crescent head

in the historic and the worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Facebook recently added the head of one of the country’s most important domestic aid organizations to its Dangerous Personal Terrorist BlacklistIntercept learned.

Internal company materials reviewed by The Intercept show Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) head Matiul Haq Khalis; son of prominent mujahideen commander Muhammad Yunus Khalis; and a former Taliban negotiator — on 4 was added to the company’s rigorous vetting list in late June, joining thousands of individuals and organizations deemed too dangerous to discuss or use the platform freely, including alleged terrorists, hate groups, drug cartels and mass murderers . But now, Facebook’s designation means that lists ostensibly created and executed to stop offline harm could undermine the work of a globally recognized group dedicated to alleviating poverty for tens of millions of civilians.

after collapse U.S.-backed government and quit Since its founding in 1934, Harris was named president of the organization, which helps civilians there provide health care, food and other humanitarian aid. half the population is starving and U.S. sanctions threaten A sort of total economic collapse, ARCS is a bulwark against greater suffering. More than 2 billion Facebook and Instagram users worldwide are now barred from praising, supporting or representing Harris after he was placed on a list of dangerous individuals in the strictest “Tier 1” category for terrorists because of his affiliation with the Taliban; This means that even a bland photo of him at an official ARCS event, a quote or a positive mention of him in the organization’s aid work could be removed, as if he communicated using the company’s platform Like any attempt, whether in Afghanistan or abroad.

“The Afghan Red Crescent continues to provide life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people across the country, working in all provinces,” said ICRC spokeswoman Anita Dullard. “They are dealing with a range of issues, including Severe drought, Covid-19, economic hardship, and efforts to support Afghanistan’s healthcare system. We are working closely with the Afghan Red Crescent to ensure we can deliver humanitarian assistance.”

A senior official at a major international aid organization in Afghanistan, who asked not to be named to avoid jeopardizing operations in the country, described ARCS as “one of the leading humanitarian actors serving a growing number of people in Afghanistan. needs” and “a huge contributor to collective humanitarian efforts” pursued with other NGOs. The aid official expressed surprise that Harris would be selected for scrutiny despite his Taliban ties, saying he “never carried a gun” and expressed concern about the possibility of hindering life-saving humanitarian work. “It is certain that ARCS is using Facebook as a tool to communicate with the public,” the source continued. “if [the blacklisting] They added that this would have a negative impact on Afghanistan.

On December 21, 2021, in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yuli and Secretary General of the Afghan Red Crescent Society Maulavi Martiul Haq Khalis attended the handover ceremony of materials donated by China on the front line.  ARCS has received a batch of aid donated by the Red Cross Society of China.  (Photo by Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua via Getty Images)

On December 21, 2021, Afghan Red Crescent Secretary General Maulawi Mathiul Haq Khalis (right) attended the handover ceremony of donated materials in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Photo: Saifrahman Safi/Getty Images)

Graeme Smith, an Afghanistan analyst with the International Crisis Group and a former UN official in Afghanistan, said Harris’ career in Afghanistan was “extremely diverse”.Smith noted that Harris was considered an ally of the United States in recent history, serving with the anti-Soviet jihadists led by his father, who died in 1987. Be entertained by President Ronald Reagan at the White House reception. Harris sided with the Taliban after the 2001 U.S. invasion. “In other words, he came from a distinguished family whose lineage was rooted in eastern Afghanistan’s history of tribal support and fighting against invaders,” Smith explained. “I have spent most of my career studying Afghan politics and I have never met any important politician who is not ‘dangerous’ in some way. Afghans know from painful experience that Western politicians are also sometimes very Danger.”

It’s no surprise that Facebook’s designation of Khalis was considered in a vacuum. The company’s roster of dangerous groups and individuals often reflects the U.S. foreign policy stance, blacklisting federal sanctions and terror-designated entities such as the Taliban, while giving Western allies a lot of latitude.In Afghanistan, Facebook mimicked the State Department’s decision almost entirely, which means a sovereign state’s ruling government, repressing its own people and probably still despised in the United States, is Inability to freely use the Internet to communicate with citizensNow that the Taliban have won the war and taken control of the country, the U.S. government and Facebook not only share a common dilemma over how to treat the Taliban, but appear to be taking the same punitive measures for the matter.Just as the Biden administration continues to punish the Taliban at the expense of the Afghan people Withholding billions of dollars in frozen cashFacebook is now sanctioning the head of one of Afghanistan’s most important humanitarian organizations at a time when Afghans are Sell ​​kidneys to avoid hunger“It goes without saying that the Red Crescent has a vital humanitarian role in Afghanistan’s ongoing armed conflict,” Smith added.

John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told The Intercept that he doubted the blacklisting would have a significant impact on domestic relief efforts, given the relatively small scope of ARCS compared with large international organizations. “It’s not going to significantly impact their operations or promotion in some way,” he said. “It’s more of an indication that Facebook’s policies don’t make a lot of sense.” Sifton questioned the extent to which letting people talk about Harris freely would endanger anyone or anything. “How is he ‘dangerous’? He’s 65 years old. He doesn’t have a militia. His father was a mujahideen commander, but what’s the problem here?” Sifton pointed to groups actively using the platform to incite violence. “There is a real problem in India with haters spreading toxic anti-Muslim violence on Facebook, Hindu nationalist groups, the hateful Buddhist group in Myanmar. Get Harris to post online how he cut the ribbon at a new hospital in Afghanistan, That’s not part of the problem.”

Facebook has at times defended the breadth of its blacklist, claiming without evidence that discussions of certain entities are legally required to be censored in order to comply with U.S. sanctions law, although neither ARCS nor Khalis are currently named on Treasury or State Department lists Counterterrorism sanctions list. Despite the Taliban’s indisputably ugly human rights record and long history of brutalizing civilians, many governments have also been spared the policies of the dangerous group.Lists of dangerous groups and individuals are often criticized for their inflexibility and country-specific nuances, although the company has shown it is sometimes willing to dramatic exceptionThese exception Often also in line with U.S. policy decisions.

“The fact that Twitter does the exact opposite tells you everything you need to know.”

While Sifton criticized Facebook’s strict censorship policies, he also blamed “discreet” and outdated federal counterterrorism policies, and dismissed the company’s claims that it had any legal obligation to mimic those policies: “In fact, Twitter’s approach Quite the opposite tells you everything you need to know.” Sifton said Facebook was replicating the government’s mistakes by following the “ridiculousness” of the anti-terrorism sanctions list. While he stressed that he was not defending the “misogynistic, authoritarian, abusive” Taliban, he questioned the idea that the aging jihadists of the 1980s were still “dangerous” to global society. “The Taliban are dangerous because they hosted al-Qaeda from 1996 to 2001, and al-Qaeda used their territory to orchestrate 9/11 … all who did that died, all the Arabs they hosted either died It’s either very old or at Guantanamo.” In a way, the Taliban commander-in-chief represented A real danger to Afghan civiliansit’s not clear that restrictions on Harris’ global discussions might help.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Harris was added to the social network’s blacklist along with about two dozen other individuals with ties to the Taliban, including other humanitarian or public health roles such as Afghanistan’s public health minister, undersecretary for disaster management and undersecretary for refugees. But unlike the latter, ARCS is an NGO and part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a humanitarian relief organization.

In response to a request for comment, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provided a statement from the acting secretary general of ARCS, Mohammad Nabi Burhan, that the Taliban government had not affected the organization’s mission or ongoing work. . “The Afghan Red Crescent Society provides impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian services in all provinces of Afghanistan in accordance with the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and acts as an auxiliary to public authorities,” he wrote. “From October 2021 The Afghan Red Crescent Society has been operating under new leadership since 2007. It is not uncommon for the leadership of a Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society to change with leadership at the national level.”

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