A popular Afghan comic named Nazar Mohammed, better known by his stage name, Khasha Zwan, was murdered by members of the Taliban in late July. Some of Mohammed’s last moments were captured on video.
In the clip, the comedian is seen briefly donning a smile, and joking about his captors; as they drove him away to face his death.
#Kandahar: Video of martyred Nazar Mohammad, the famous Kandahari comedian, has been circulating on social media showing the moments when the Taliban took him away from his home and eventually martyred him. #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/JSkWaAmnHB
— RTA World (@rtaworld) July 27, 2021
The comic was well known on TikTok for making crude jokes and engaging with his fans. The bits that he performed seemingly spilled out into his everyday life. This is shown by the kidnapping video, as Mohammed is seen laughing and grinning at the Taliban captors, even as they flash weapons and slap him in the face repeatedly.
Murdered for his comedy
Following the release of the video showing his capture, word came out that Mohammed was murdered. Some reports state that he was shot multiple times, others claim that his throat was cut. Regardless of modality, Mohammed was murdered for what the Afghanistan Ministry of Culture and Information calls “sending strong messages through ‘art and allegory’ to the people.”
Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, commented on the severity of the situation. During an interview, Gossman said, “His murder and other recent abuses demonstrate the willingness of Taliban commanders to violently crush even the tamest criticism.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the two men who captured Mohammed were Taliban affiliates, after the video of the event rapidly spread across social media. Presumably to save face, following other revenge killings that have made waves on the internet, Mujahid said that those who killed Mohammed should have brought him before a Taliban court instead.
Mujahid also claimed that the two Taliban members in the video were arrested and will be tried, though that is as far as the information goes. Besides mentioning the arrest of the two kidnappers, the spokesman also stated that Mohammed was a member of the Afghan National Police and had been “implicated in the torture and killing of Taliban.”
Mohammed dedicated much of his time as a comedian to performing satirical songs and dances meant to poke fun at the Taliban. These jokes, alongside the fact that Mohammed reportedly worked for the Afghan police force in the past, ultimately decided the man’s fate.
Revenge killings have largely driven the Taliban’s efforts since their earlier days of power. As Gossman defines the issue, “The war—all 43 years of it—has a revenge-driven dynamic.” Elaborating further, Grossman asserted: “Revenge for past wrongs, including terrible atrocities, committed by one side or the other has been a mobilizing factor for all the various armed forces.”
Revenge falls flat in the face of comedy, it seems. Mohammed’s bold comedy, and the way he lived his final moments, prove that even death threats cannot sway someone so dedicated to making others smile.