Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

Social media users and civil rights groups reacted with outrage to initial reports of Afghanistan’s move to block WhatsApp and Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2017
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Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

KABUL: Afghanistan has ordered the suspension of WhatsApp and Telegram to resolve “technical problems,” officials said Saturday, sparking outcry among social media users.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Telegram are popular messaging apps among smartphone-using Afghans — including Taliban and Daesh terrorists.
So far state-owned Salaam Network is the only Internet provider to obey the order, which applies from November 1 to November 20, telecommunications ministry spokesman Najib Nangyalay told AFP.
“We are testing a new technology and WhatsApp and Telegram will be temporarily blocked,” Nangyalay said.
“It is not a blow to the freedom of communication in Afghanistan — we have access to Facebook, Twitter. We are committed to the freedom of expression.”
Acting telecommunications minister Shahzad Aryobee said the move was in response to dissatisfaction with the services — something industry insiders rejected.
“In order to improve the services and solve the technical problems of these two programs the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology is considering to introduce a new technology,” Aryobee said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Testing is “time-consuming” and required the temporary stoppage of WhatsApp and Telegram.
The move has ignited a firestorm on social media with users describing the move to block the messaging services as an assault on their right to free speech.
“Blocking WhatsApp and Telegram is the beginning of censorship by the Afghan government and bringing the virtual world under their control in Afghanistan. I think this is intolerable,” Facebook user Abdullah wrote.
Another user Mahdi Yasir said the quality of WhatsApp and Telegram “are great” and urged the government to focus on closing “factories producing Pakistani suicide bombers” instead.
“The two applications we were using the most are blocked. God damn this government,” Abdulraouf Sharifi posted.
A telecommunications official scoffed at the government’s claim to be developing a new technology.
“They are not going to match an international standard app,” he said.
“WhatsApp is very popular because it uses less data and the quality is very good.
“It could be security related (but) if they block it people can access VPNs,” he added, referring to virtual private networks.
Around eight million people, largely in Afghanistan’s major cities, can access the Internet, up from almost none during the Taliban’s repressive 1996-2001 regime. Most do so through mobile phones.
The Taliban frequently uses WhatsApp to post statements in Afghanistan while IS militants favor Telegram.
 


Social media abuzz with celebratory posts

Bahraini and Saudi women celebrate the lifting of the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia on June 24, 2018. (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed)
Updated 49 min 23 sec ago
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Social media abuzz with celebratory posts

  • In an apparent dig at those who used to oppose women driving in the past, the former imam of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, Adel Al-Kalbani, tweeted: “Aren’t those who said ‘women won’t drive” cute?’”
  • Lebanese model and actress Nadine Njeim shared a touching video congratulating Saudi women. She encouraged them to continue being role models in leadership roles as well.

JEDDAH: Following the lifting of a ban on driving, Saudi women are in a festive mood. On Sunday, many women in the Kingdom with valid driver’s licenses took to roads on their vehicles.

It is a historic reform, which is expected to usher in a new era of prosperity and economic development in the Kingdom.

Social media is abuzz with tweets and posts celebrating this key development. Saudi officials, businessmen and even international celebrities used social media to express their feelings on this historic decision and to congratulate Saudi women on this important day.

Mody Al-Khalaf, a Saudi Shoura Council member, expressed her support to her fellow sisters using Twitter. She tweeted: “It is now 11:59 PM, June 24th in Saudi Arabia. If there ever was a historical 60 seconds, this is it. #ReadySetGo #SaudiWomenDriving”

Top businesswoman Ameera Al-Taweel called on men to extend full support to women and help them achieve their goals in life.

“On such a historic day, I wish to see women being brave and men supporting them. In most countries, we see a ‘New Driver’ sign at the back of every vehicle indicating that the person driving is inexperienced — out of consideration for new drivers. I wish we could all be considerate of other women and realize that this experience is new for them, just to ensure everything goes smoothly for everyone.”

A twitter user Aziz Al-Angari  (@AzizAngari) from Saudi Arabia shared his first experience with an Uber lady driver, Ohoud. “Just requested my first Uber ride from a Saudi female. Thanks for the ride, Ohoud! #SaudiWomenDriving”

In an apparent dig at those who used to oppose women driving in the past, the former imam of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, Adel Al-Kalbani, tweeted: “Aren’t those who said ‘women won’t drive” cute?’”

Former Pakistani cricket player Shoaib Akhtar, also known as the Rawalpindi Express for his lightening bowling spells on the field, tweeted: “Congratulations to all the women in #SaudiArabia #womenempowerment #SaudiWomenDriving.” 

Talli Dar, artist/YouTuber from Toronto tweeted: “Starting today, Saudi women can finally drive. They’ve officially been issued their licenses and can start racing Saudi men on the streets and see who’s the Fastest & Most Furious. Historic moment #SaudiWomenDriving.”

Lebanese model and actress Nadine Njeim shared a touching video congratulating Saudi women. She encouraged them to continue being role models in leadership roles as well.

“Every woman in the Arab world and especially in Saudi Arabia – today is your day, today you achieved greatness because you trusted in yourself, your strength and abilities.”

 Hiba Tawaji, the Lebanese soprano singer, also released a video to congratulate Saudi women by sharing a song she performed live in Riyadh on Dec. 7, 2017. She said: “Today women in Saudi Arabia can legally drive their cars. Congratulations!”