Last week, we reported the incredible story of Pervez Kambaksh, a 23 year-old journalist, who was condemned to death by an Afghan court for downloading a story dealing with women rights. The story has been picked up by newspapers throughout the world which are fighting to save his life. Yesterday, Afghan’s Senate passed a resolution approving the death sentence. Thousands of people have sent pleas to President Karzai urging, not only that he deny the sentence, but that he release the young man. Great Britain’s The Independent has already obtained 13,000 signatures on a petition in support of the Afghan journalist.
In Kabul, hundreds of people marched through the streets in defense of freedom of speech, but, the Afghan Senate apparently believes the fight for freedom entails suppressing stories one does not like. Mr. Kambaksh was tried and convicted by a religious court in a secret session. Early reports suggested Mr. Kambaksh and his brother had upset local warlords due to their investigative reporting about corruption and the entire episode was merely an attempt to get back at them by putting Pervez on trial. He downloaded a story from university students in which someone raised the issue if Muslim men could have multiple wives then why couldn’t women have multiple husbands. That is the basis of a death sentence.
Great Britain has expressed its concerns to President Karzai. The broader issue is the emerging power of clerics in deciding what people can say or wear or do in a supposedly modern democratic Afghanistan. Ironically, these clerics increasingly act and think like the Taliban which was defeated. This story merely illustrates the dyfunctional Bush policy of abandoning the fight for democracy in Afghanistan in order to pursue his mad policy in Iraq. The Taliban is realy back in power in Afghanistan.