What Taliban Ringtones Tell Us About The Afghan War
Things aren't looking so hot.
Right off the bat it sounds like a laughable rumor, perhaps on par with urban legends involving Hello Kitty cocaine. Sadly, the reality of Taliban cellphone jingles isn't a joke at all to the people of Afghanistan—and can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Afghan shopkeeper Nasratullah Niazai has developed a brisk new business over the past year. For about $2 a pop, he uploads into customers' cellphones a collection of Taliban songs and ringtones...[T]he songs and ringtones romanticizing the insurgents' jihad against the infidel invaders serve as potentially lifesaving travel insurance for Kabulis who brave increasingly perilous countryside roads.
Sentries at improvised Taliban checkpoints, some only an hour's drive away from central Kabul, routinely check travelers' cellphones. As a result, government officials, police, soldiers, security guards, university students, translators for Western companies, construction workers and scores of others go to extraordinary lengths to scrub their phones of any evidence of links to the coalition and the Afghan government—and to masquerade as Taliban sympathizers.
The WSJ report cites the expanding industry of Taliban songs, chants, and ringtones—a Taliban spokesman claims that insurgents manage dozens of singers "each of whom produces on average of one 12-song album every month" to help "ensure that people don't turn to ungodly secular music." Much of the lyrical content focuses on lessons in Islamism and "bravery, manliness and protecting the country from the invaders," and many of the top-selling tunes are sung by kids with "beautiful and attractive voices."