The results of the 2014 Afghan presidential election are still up in the air. As we write these lines, an internationally supervised audit is ongoing. What is clear, however, is the growing success of Facebook and Twitter campaigns set up by human rights educators in Afghanistan to fight corruption and encourage people to cast their vote. Omaid Sharifi, a participant of the 2014 IHRTP in June, shares some of his thoughts about the most recent campaigns.
Equitas: How can social media help human rights educators in Afghanistan?
Omaid Sharifi: Over a million people in Afghanistan have access to Facebook and 85% of the population has access to a cellphone with an internet connection. So it revolutionizes the way we can reach the citizens all over the country. Connected people receive feeds of what’s going on all over the country, and especially about cases of violence and cases of human rights abuses. All these stories are spreading through social media and then, through social media we initiate campaigns that call upon the intervention of the government, the security officials and the international community. Facebook and Twitter also offer a great place for discussions and debates around human rights.
Equitas: How do you make this work?
O.S.: I like collective action and joint advocacy, so I usually coordinate with individuals and associations to make sure we can work together and have more impact. Recently, we organized a “Yes I vote” campaign on Facebook and Twitter with the participation of groups of individuals and civil society organizations. It was picked up pretty much in major cities of Afghanistan and in the north, south and east of the country. We had a lot of discussions to encourage voters to come out and vote on the day of the elections despite security threats and other problems. In the end, the “Yes I vote” campaign was widely recognized by the population and the media. We also had another campaign where we used a combination of social and traditional media to send our messages. This one was to fight corruption and was also coordinated by a group of individuals and organizations.
Equitas: How can your training at the IHRTP assist you in your efforts?
O.S.: The IHRTP has been for me a great opportunity to connect with many human rights activists, all over the world. I got a chance to learn from their experience and I can now duplicate some of their practices here in Afghanistan. Also, the IHRTP will definitely help me in providing a better support to the civil society organization I’m working for.