Supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have set up a hardline radio program on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The programs target jobless youth, encouraging them to adopt extremist views and join the fight in Syria.
A reporter for Asia Calling visited the area to find out more.
It’s a cold evening in eastern Nangarhar province. At night, young people here gather around the fire to discuss their daily activities.
But over recent months, they have gathered to listen to programs played on a new FM radio channel.
Supporters of ISIS here, known locally as Daesh, have launched a radio station called, “Sadaye Khilafat,” which means “Voice of the Caliphate”.
The sound of horses is used in the station’s promo – intended to conjure up an image of the Prophet Mohammad, who mostly used horses during war.
The daily broadcasts – that run for three hours each day – include anti-government propaganda, invitations to join ISIS in Syria, and interviews with ISIS fighters.
Saad Emarati is a guest on today’s program about the heroes of ISIS. Emarati was once an active Taliban militant, but has since declared support for ISIS.
Here he is on the radio urging listeners to join him.
“I ask all people who are not linked with ISIS to get connected soon and follow Abu-Bakar Al Baghdadi as a leader of Muslims,” he urges, “I especially invite religious people to join ISIS, people do not have any real reason to delay.”
“Voice of the Caliphate” has been compared to Mulah radio in Pakistan, a station the Taliban used to broadcast its messages in 2007 and 2008.
Initially, the station broadcast only Pashto language programs but soon after it started playing programs in Dari languages as well.
Twenty-two-year-old Naveed-ur-Rahman has been unemployed for the last seven months.
He has been a regular listener of Voice of the Caliphate since the station first started broadcasting in August last year. But Naveed denies being convinced of the message.
“I know the main purpose of the radio is to recruit young people like me who are jobless and do not have any source of income, but I don’t think any sensible young man will join Daesh,” he says, “They want to use the name of Islam but I don’t think it will work anymore to deceive Afghans.”
Yet 25-year-old Hazrat, not his real name, says he is pleased that ISIS, or Daesh, has its own space on the airwaves.
“Media plays a vital role in wars now, so it is good that Daesh has a radio channel,” he says, “I don’t want to say if I am an ISIS supporter or not but I like the radio channel because it gives Daesh an opportunity to share their version of the story… I wait all day long to hear the program.”
In Afghanistan, radio is a major source of news and entertainment for people in cities and villages, and there are around 170 radio stations across the country.
However, earlier this month, Afghan government officials claimed that a US drone strike destroyed the station, killing 29 militants and five radio station members.
Even though on Twitter, ISIS strongly rejected the claims.
Still, Naveed-ur-Rahman has been unable to listen to the station for several weeks.
Instead he has switched to Pashto music – a welcome change, says his mother Gul bibi.
“My son used to listen to the Daesh programs but there has not been a program on for more than two weeks now,” says Gul, “The militants want to spread their fear through that radio but ISIS fighters should know that they can’t rule by force,” she says.
For now at least, it looks like ISIS Radio may in Afghanistan have been silenced.
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