By: Priyam Nayak
August 18 2021
An embassy official said the Twitter account had been hacked. The findings of the investigation into the 2019 sex scandal cannot be found.
An embassy official said the Twitter account had been hacked. The findings of the investigation into the 2019 sex scandal cannot be found. On August 16, 2021, the official Twitter handle of the Embassy of Afghanistan in India posted a series of tweets in which the former president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, was criticized for fleeing the country after the Taliban took over the capital, Kabul on August 15, 2021. Among these were three tweets that accused Dr. Fazel Fazly, the former General Director of the Administrative Office of the President in the Ghani-led government, of sexually exploiting women. Another tweet accused Ghani of turning “a blind eye at the sexual harassments.” The tweets criticizing Ghani were later deleted, and it was reported that the account had been hacked. Abdulhaq Azad, the press secretary of the Afghan embassy in India, stated that he did not have access to the account and that it had been hacked. "I have lost access to the Twitter handle of Afghan Embassy India, a friend sent a screenshot of this tweet, (this tweet is hidden from me.) I have tried to log in but can’t access it. Seems it is hacked," Azad tweeted. However, besides Azad’s claims, there was no confirmation from anyone else in the Afghan Embassy in Kabul about the account being hacked. The tweets were referring to allegations of sexual exploitation in the highest levels of government that surfaced in 2019. In May 2019, Habibullah Ahmadzai, who had served as a former security advisor to Ghani, stated in an interview with Afghan channel Khurshid TV said, “People were working systematically for promoting adultery in the (presidential) palace and everyone is aware of it.” Ahmadzai went on to say that “some ministers, president’s advisers and parliament members have [their] hands in prostitution,” claiming that some female parliamentarians were declared victors in last year’s highly contested parliamentary election “based on [sexual] affairs”, according to a report by Al Jazeera. He also accused Ghani’s administration of corruption. Ahmadzai’s allegations – for which he did not provide supporting evidence, –were met with skepticism because they surfaced at a time when Afghanistan was slated to hold presidential elections in September 2019. A report by Al Jazeera stated, “Ahmadzai himself unsuccessfully ran for one of the 33 parliamentary seats in Kabul province last October, leading some to question his motives for making these allegations after serving as a government adviser for more than three years.” However, in an interview with Indian News Channel World Is One News, Mariam Wardak, an Afghan-American who has worked in the national security council in Afghanistan corroborated Ahmadzai’s claims about the presidential palace asking women for sexual favors in exchange for a minister’s seat or for becoming a member of parliament. She said, “One may take General Ahmadzai’s interview as someone scorned. The issues he brought up and highlighted reflect reality.” The presidential palace has denied all the allegations. Haroon Chakhansuri, the then spokesman for Ghani, had said: “Mr Habib Ahmadzai’s allegations are completely false and baseless. This issue will be seriously investigated and the results will be shared with the people of Afghanistan … Mr Ahmadzai’s allegations are insult to the women who have sacrificed for so long to reach decision-making levels. No one will be allowed to harm the honor of Afghan women.” The investigation was supposed to be conducted by the attorney general, whose appointment is made by the president. In July 2019, a BBC investigation (which was based on interviews with six women) revealed that sexual harassment was a problem in the Afghan government that was not limited to any one individual or ministry. Two of the tweets posted from the Embassy of Afghanistan’s account referred to this investigation but contrary to the claims in one of the tweets which claimed that Fazly was named in the investigation, the report did not name any of the accused or the victims. It also highlighted that the interviewees had expressed that they did not trust government bodies enough to file complaints with them. While Fazly was not named as a perpetrator by an English media reports, a section of the website of the Liberal Democratic Party of Afghanistan, a political party started by Afghan exiles living in Germany, stated in a blog post condemning Ghani, “According to our information, Mr Ashraf Ghani and his advisers Mr Fazal Fazli and Mr Hamdullah Muhib are allegedly involved in the sex scandal and several other offences.” The blog post did not provide any evidence though to support its claim of Fazly or Muhib’s involvement. It is important to note that while an investigation was opened, there are no reports of its findings. Hence it is unconfirmed whether Fazly had sexually exploited women in exchange for positions in the government. However, given the lack of information about the conclusions of the investigations, it is likely that the issue of women being subjected to sexual harassment by senior members of the government was suppressed.