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3/24/03 - AFGHANISTAN IS BACK ONLINE - 2003-03-25

Under the Taleban regime, Afghanistan’s culture suffered along with its people. Many treasures were destroyed. They included three giant statues of Buddha that centuries ago had been carved into a mountain near the town of Bamiyan. The statues were deemed by the intolerant Taleban to be “un-Islamic.”

But Afghanistan’s past wasn’t the only thing the Taleban tried to suppress. Afghanistan’s limited high-technology link to the rest of the world was also attacked by the Taleban. Most Internet users were linked by phone lines to Internet providers in neighboring Pakistan. Even though few computers were actually hooked up, all Afghan citizens, including academics, professionals, and government officials, were prohibited from using the Internet. The Taleban’s Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was ordered to prosecute and punish Afghans who violated the edict and went online.

Now that the Taleban have been overthrown, Afghanistan is once again linked to the information superhighway. And this month the Afghan transitional government received technical and legal control of the “.a-f” domain on the Internet. With United Nations help, Afghanistan gained approval from the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, the non-profit organization that assigns Internet domains. Mohammad Masoom Stanakzai, the Afghan minister of communications, said, “For Afghanistan, this is like reclaiming part of our sovereignty. It is the country’s flag on the Internet.”

The first website belongs to the Afghan Ministry of Communications, and the second is administered by a U-N agency operating in Afghanistan. Others will follow.

As Afghanistan’s Communications Minister Stanakzai said, “Afghanistan can now be recognized on the Internet, among all other countries in the world.... You now see provinces that are connected. [The] Internet will continue to help in the development of the country.”