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Afghanistan Under US Control Sends Man To Prison For Promoting Women's Rights

Mother Davis searches for the new edition of her dictionary of the English language as she writes,

It’s enough to make me want to drink rum straight from the bottle. As I write this, I am literally drinking rum from a bottle. I am that furious about what I’ve learned tonight.

I hope that most people will remember the promises that were made at the beginning of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. We were told that the country would be liberated. We were told that, thanks to the war there, Afghans, and especially Afghan women, would finally live in freedom.

Almost eight years later, here’s the reality of the government established in Afghanistan by the United States of America: The Afghan Supreme Court has just upheld the conviction and sentencing of an Afghan journalist to 19 years in prison, on charges of criminal blasphemy. Blasphemy. That’s a religious crime, the crime of saying something that contradicts what religious authorities want people to believe.

The blasphemy in this case: That women have human rights.

Afghan journalist Parwez Kambakhsh was accused of downloading an article written in Iran, and distributing that article to other people. The article allegedly suggested that Islam is supposed to guarantee the rights of women as human beings. It is for the possession and sharing of that article that Kambakhsh is now to serve 19 years in prison.

It would be easy to write this story off as merely an example of what an awful religion Islam can be. That’s a legitimate interpretation of these incidents, but it only deals with half of the story.

The other half of the story: The system that convicted Parwez Kambakhsh was set up by the United States and its allies. We were promised that the war in Afghanistan would liberate that country. Instead, what that war has done is to establish a new Afghan government under which it is a crime for a man to merely carry a document that suggests that women might have legal rights as human beings.

According to Kambakhsh’s lawyer, Afzal Nooristani, Kambakhsh was convicted by a secret court endorsed by Hamid Karzai’s government, and operated by Islamic fundamentalist religious leaders. That court did not allow Kambakhsh to be defended by any lawyers. This week, Afghanistan’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the blasphemy conviction of Kambakhsh without even hearing defense arguments from Kambakhsh. The key government witness now says that he was forced to testify against Kambakhsh – or be killed. Kambakhsh himself says that he was tortured by the Afghan government’s National Directorate of Security.

You probably have not heard this story. That’s because the same American journalists who were writing day after day, week after week about how the USA was “liberating” Afghanistan back in 2001 are pretending that this story does not exist. The only way that I found out about this story tonight was by reading a a blog that linked back to a story written The Independent over in the United Kingdom.

afghan blasphemerThis story was written about two days ago in many European newspapers. However, the story has only been published in one American newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, after the Associated Press wrote just one article that refers to the judgment in the case this month. And what was the content in the story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution? One sentence, after six paragraphs of other news: “The Afghan Supreme Court upheld a 20-year prison sentence for journalism student Parwez Kambakhsh, 24, who was accused of blasphemy for asking questions in a university class about women’s rights.”

This story, full of political relevance and human interest, is not being published in American newspapers. Why? Because it illustrates how the war in Afghanistan has not resulted in the liberation of the people there? Because it exposes how wrong American reporters were about the mission and implementation of the war? As the Independent’s story suggests, Kambakhsh’s case is not an anomaly. “There are thousands of people just like him, convicted illegally, with no recourse.”

Sure, the Committee to Protect Journalists is decrying the treatment of Parwez Kambakhsh. Who, though, is going to shine light on the American media blackout on the Kambakhsh story?

Finding the new definition of “freedom” in the dictionary: “Whatever it takes to sell the latest war”,
Mother Davis

7 comments to Afghanistan Under US Control Sends Man To Prison For Promoting Women's Rights

  • HareTrinity

    “It would be easy to write this story off as merely an example of what an awful religion Islam can be.”
    I don’t think that the particular religion has any input in this case.

    It’s a set of cultural values we consider outdated, and though sexism is often “supported” by religion this rarely seems to be a key point.

    • In this case, I think it has an awful lot to do with the particular religion of Islam, as it was Islamic judges who originally convicted Parwez Kambakhsh, and it was Islamic radicals who took to the streets pushing for the Supreme Court to uphold the conviction. The charge was blasphemy against Islam – I don’t see how Islam doesn’t have any input in this case.

      If Islam is truly a religion of peace, and that’s not just a PR motto, then Islam needs to take care of the authoritarianism within its ranks.

      I am not saying that other religions don’t or haven’t had similar problems. Here in the United States, the Christian right wing has tried to impose tyranny in the name of its religion.

      However, there are some small religious movements that don’t regard blasphemy as a crime – Unitarian Universalism, for example. Know why they’re small? It’s because the big religious bullies use fear and violence to gain power very effectively.

      The case of Parwez Kambakhsh is not an isolated incident. Islamic courts in Afghanistan, approved by the government set up by the United States, are imposing draconian religious law just as the Taliban did.

      We in the USA need to ask: Where’s the liberation?

      • HareTrinity

        I’m not saying religion isn’t being used as an important factor, just that it goes no further than that; a religion being used.

        As Libhomo puts it; this could happen with any religion in a culture that wants to cling onto sexism.

        I’m sure it could also occur with Buddhism, Wicca, Hinduism, Jedi-ism; if people want sexism, they can support it with religion. Doesn’t matter which one.

        If Islam supposedly does guarantee human rights for men and women, that puts it above many religions, but it’s not like anyone in power repeats the bits they don’t want to hear.

        • What is the difference between a religion being consistently used for a specific purpose, and what that religion actually is? If a religion allows for such use, then there’s something in the religion that doesn’t contain specific moral leadership to prevent that use. It’s kind of like arguing that there’s nothing inherently wrong with nuclear weapons, but just that people use them. Seems to me that there’s something very wrong in Islam if Islam can’t stop itself from being used in this way.

          • HareTrinity

            Because Christianity gets used to, if anything, a worse extent.

            Christianity has been used to support and oppose torture, civil rights, war, the death penalty, abortion, different political settings, the class split, open-mindedness, et cetera.

            Doesn’t mean that the majority of families who follow these religions aren’t good people. Doesn’t mean that the use of the religions won’t change.

  • HareTrinity: There certainly are a lot of fundamentalist Christians who would like such laws here in the US.

  • qs

    We need to GTFO of that country.

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