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Hashtag StoptajikGenocide spikes with execution video

Use of the hashtag surged between March 10-16.


17 Mar 2022

Cover image, illustration of incident, from social media.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, there have been frequent concerns over the treatment of ethnic minorities in the country.

While the Taliban had pledged to govern and to provide representation for all people in Afghanistan, there have been multiple verified incidents - and a large volume of unverified claims of violations - against minorities.

One of the hashtags associated with minority rights abuses is #StopTajikGenocide, which has been used intermittently since August to highlight cases against ethnic Tajiks in northern Afghanistan. It is thought that Tajiks make up approximately 27% of the country’s population, making them the second largest ethnic group after Pashtuns.

Usage of #StopTajikGenocide has increased since December 2021, with a surge in use in recent weeks, notably between March 10-16.

Figure 1: Graph showing usage of hashtag #stoptajikgenocide from August 15 2021 to present

The uptick in use came after the account @Valley00011 (named 'Afghanistan Resistance panjshir valley') shared a video which appears to show the execution of a Tajik man (Twitter GRAPHIC). In the video, the man, who has his hands bound behind his back, is questioned for over a minute by the cameraman before one Taliban fighter opens fire and shoots the man, who is seen falling to the ground before being shot several more times. The tweet was retweeted six times and had been ‘liked’ 19 times at the time of writing - a relatively low figure.

Follow up posts and a news article named the man in the video as Ahmad Bilal, a teacher in a school in Hisarak, near Rukha in Panjshir. The mountains and skyline visible in the clip are consistent with the valley around Hisarak, although AW have not yet been able to verify the exact geolocation. According to family quoted in news reports, the incident happened approximately six months ago.

Other accounts also shared the video with the hashtag shortly after the initial post and gained more traction, with 43 retweets and 132 likes. However, the major spike in the use of the hashtag came on March 13, when it was used 638 times, over 200% more than the previous day. The spike came when user Abu Muslim Shirzad tweeted an artistic interpretation of the video, asking users to join the hashtag:

Figure 2: Image shared by @abushirzad calling for people to use the hashtag #stoptajikgenocide.

At the time of writing, the tweet was retweeted 114 times and received 785 likes, with an estimated reach of over 64,000 according to social media tools. The use of the hashtag rapidly decreased over subsequent days, but the event and hashtag suggest an active online community who mobilise on minority rights around graphic incidents.

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