March 6, 2018 / 12:36 PM / 17 days ago

Outrage at apparent bid to shame popular Afghan comedian

KABUL (Reuters) - A video showing a well-known Afghan comedian, apparently under the influence of drink or drugs and being vilified by men, at least one in military-style uniform, has sparked outrage about what appeared to be a bid to shame a critic of the powerful.

The short clip, which has been widely shared on social media and viewed tens of thousands of times, shows Ibrahim Abed, a comedian famous in Afghanistan for ridiculing powerful figures, as he stares blankly, struggling to stand steadily.

“Film his face, this is Ibrahim Abed who is drunk. This is the one who jokes about people in the media,” says one man, as several men held Abed up and another shook him by the shoulders.

The face of only one of the men was clear. One, whose face was not visible, wore a military-style uniform.

Islamic prohibitions against alcohol and getting drunk make a public display of intoxication deeply shameful in Afghanistan and the fact that the video was posted on social media was widely seen as a deliberate bid to disgrace Abed.

The comedian could not be reached for comment but friends said he had been drugged while at a party at a house outside the capital, Kabul, in a bid to shame him.

In another video posted on Facebook, Abed said the clip was “disturbing” and he vowed to continue his work.

Overwhelmingly supportive comments on social media underlined widespread frustration at a culture of impunity that allows powerful strongmen, often with retinues of heavily armed guards, to flout rules and bully the less powerful.

Many social media users posted Abed’s picture to show solidarity and pledged support.

“Humiliation of Ibrahim Abed is another level of injustice committed by power mafia towards ordinary people of Afghanistan,” wrote one Twitter user.

Najib Danish, spokesman for the interior ministry, said an investigation was underway.

Abed’s television show, Shabaka-e-Khanda (“Laughter Network”) mocks everything from corruption to powerful politicians and inept officials and is popular with many Afghans.

Tolo TV, Afghanistan’s most popular private television station which broadcasts Abed’s programme, said the show would go on.

Afghanistan has come a long way since the end of the austere regime of the Taliban in 2001, but life is often a struggle against corruption, with political infighting and the threat of militant attacks constant worries.

Abed’s comedy show has helped many Afghans find some relief in humour.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Robert Birsel

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