Publicity / Blogging - Help me help a desperate Afghan woman
October 22, 2021 12:33 AM   Subscribe

I have a plan and am ready to put it into place, a whole series of questions related to it.

If you know me, you will know that I did some teacher training in Kabul around 2005-2006, and I have many contacts there from that period. It has been a terrible time in Afghanistan recently and I have been hearing from them many of them - needing support, wanting to get out, wanting my help.

I am not an important or wealthy person so the help I can give is basically nonexistent. I sent a couple of them money via Western Union, but that is not an option for me anymore and anyways is not a long term solution. Many of them I have only been able to give council, and to explain that "I worked on a training course with a Canadian 15 years ago" does not really help them to get a visa.

So there is one young woman who I have been in regular contact with. She is a FOAF, I never knew her personally, but it is clear through contacts in my network that she is a real person and her story is real. I am trying to help her to get out of Afghanistan. I personally cannot sponsor her as a refugee to Canada, and my efforts to reach out to my personal network in this regard have been unsuccessful.

She is Shia, and half Hazara by ethnicity, so she has a lot against her within this new regime aside from just being an educated woman. Her family is poor. She is depressed, housebound, frightened, and desperate to leave the country.

I thought that if she could write a blog, and I could be the intermediary for anonymity, and if this could get some promotion and traction, it could be a way for her cause to get some publicity. Maybe it could be used to raise funds for her to leave. Maybe it could attract the attention of an organisation that could provide her the support to leave.

So she has written a few short pieces so far, enough content to get it started. We have made sure to shift details so it is not linked to her real name, location, etc. I have told her how to do some photography for it, such that it will not be compromising her anonymity.

I am ready to set up a blog and start to publicise it.

Where is an easy and free blog site to use that will not easily be taken down (strong freedom of speech aspect) and that could be widely accessible to people?
What will be the best way to promote it and get it widely seen?
What is wrong with my plan?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

2. Tag posts correctly, link to the site whenever leaving constructive comments on other blogs. (Just don't comment for the sake of leaving a link - it might be seen as spam)
Find blogs that cover the same issues, link to them and hopefully they'll link back
Write regularly! (You could write several posts at once and then set the Publishing date for each to be a few days apart)
If comments are left on your posts, interact by replying.

3. Nothing. Do it :)
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 5:00 AM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

My only thought is not to underestimate the ability of people who want to find her, to work out who she is based on even anonymised information.

Location data in the metadata of her photos? Any documented connection to that course 15 years ago that was taught by a Canadian? You clearly will know way more about Afghanistan than I do so are probably all over this, but if you're not 100 per cent sure, maybe worth running things past someone with recent experience in the country, a local (to you) refugee agency, or someone you know with a reasonable amount of online savvy, for any thoughts they have on what is truly safe for her to share and what information might be unwittingly embedded in the things she sends you.

Particularly tricky might be the point at which - if all goes well - she is helped to leave the country. Her application goes in, sponsored or funded by [organisation in Canada]. Is there potential then for dots to be joined and someone to realise that this is the blogger?
posted by penguin pie at 5:35 AM on October 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'm probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs at this point, so disregard at will, but this question has stuck in my head today because it's such a conundrum - it has such potential to change or save a life, but is also a huge Catch 22, because the more successful the blog is, and the more attention it gets - bringing you closer to your goal - the more at risk she becomes.

So, FWIW - my other thought was just that in something like this, that's a long-term project, you'll need to be aware of the danger of what newspapers call "jigsaw identification", whereby lots of tiny details, which in themselves can't identify someone, or which seem innocent to you, can over time actually be put together to identify them.

So... [purely hypothetical examples ahead] one day you post a photo that just has some vague hills in the background, looks very non-descript to you, but to someone who knows the area well, has a recognisable hilltop in it and they can see which way the shadows fall on the ground, so they can tell which town it was likely taken in. But it's a town of 20,000 people, no big deal.
Another post mentions, with no specifics, that she worked in education - that's fine, thousands of women in Afghanistan did.
The existence of the blog makes it obvious she has connections outside of Afghanistan, because she's getting the blog posts out.
Maybe in another post she mentions that she dreams of one day having a family, and children. Super-common, and not identifying.
A further post mentions that she had a cousin who was able to leave through Kabul airport just before the Taliban took power and wishes that she'd been able to go with them. Again, she's one of many.

Each of those individual items only marks her out as one woman among thousands, but put it all together and you have a woman who lives in town x, worked in education, is probably aged under c.40 (still wants children), has links with someone outside Afghanistan, is related to someone who was on a plane out of Kabul airport in the dying days of the former regime, a little googling reveals this post, which mentions her ethnicity and links to your MeFi profile, which makes your identity clear. Suddenly she's becoming much easier to trace for anyone who is determined enough. And the more attention the blog gets, the more reason they have to seek her out.

Might at least be worth asking the mods to anonymise this.

I don't know what the answer is, and salute you for trying to find one. I guess you just have to be very clear with her what the risks might be, and see what she thinks. We can probably only guess at her desperation and the extent to which it seems a worthwhile risk for her.
posted by penguin pie at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Can you find a local faith-based organization to work together on this? There are groups out there really wanting to help someone in Afghanistan but not knowing exactly who or how exactly to go about it.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:59 AM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

please listen to penguin pie - your advice/plan is putting her at much more risk, for questionable/uncertain reward. yes, it would be good for her to put together a profile, essays, photos, etc - but that kind of material could be compiled to be sent through more discrete channels/networks (and not blasted on the internet through a publicly-viewable website).

if you and her do compile that material, i would be willing to forward it to my own networks, privately, to see if anyone can help (and i'm sure there are others on metafilter who would do the same).
posted by aielen at 1:02 PM on October 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

To specifically answer your question on where to get the best publicity, use Medium.

I would post it as many sites as possible but Medium gets the most eyeballs. It doesn’t bring in blog income, so that’s why bloggers looking to build their brand use Wordpress/ Substack/ etc but it will bring you new audiences and drive views to your posts.

I could give a couple of examples of established bloggers or prominent people who have posted on Medium specifically when they want the post to reach as many people as possible, but I can’t remember at the moment and am typing on my mobile…

Wordpress as mentioned above is a personal site and won’t bring traffic on its own. It’s a great framework to host blogs, but if you need maximum visibility, use Medium.
posted by moiraine at 10:56 AM on October 23, 2021

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