A student in Afghanistan has been sentenced to death for passing out an article about women's rights in Islam.
The student, Parwiz Kambakhsh, 24, from northern Afghanistan, was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to death for blasphemy after accusations that he had written and distributed an article about the role of women in Islam. Kambakhsh has denied having written the article and said he had downloaded it from the Internet. His family and lawyers say he has been denied a fair trial.And this wasn't some minor court in the mountains of Tora Bora, this was the Supreme Court in Kabul that made the decision. This is only the latest in a series of assaults against freedom of speech in Karzai's government.
An Afghan journalist, Javed Ahmad, 23, who worked for the Canadian broadcaster CTV, was shot and killed Tuesday evening in the center of the southern city of Kandahar, the second killing of an Afghan journalist in southern Afghanistan in nine months. Abdul Samad Rohani, a journalist in Helmand Province, was shot and killed last year, in an attack thought to be connected to his investigation of police involvement in the drug trade.Afghanistan is now at the center of a perfect storm involving three disastrous elements: religious fundamentalism, a corrupt government backed by Western powers largely indifferent to human rights (or anything other than targeting "insurgents") and an economy based on being the world's largest supplier of heroin.
Three other well-established journalists have left Kandahar in recent months after receiving threats from Taliban insurgents over their coverage of events.
Another journalist, Ghows Zalmai, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for blasphemy after publishing a Dari translation of the Koran that hard-line clerics disputed, said Human Rights Watch, based in New York.
Western diplomats and human rights organizations have expressed concern that despite Karzai's assurances of press freedom and freedom of speech, journalists and civilians are under increasing threat from both insurgents and conservative religious clerics allied with the government. Karzai, his critics say, is reluctant to move against the clerics in an election year.
Meanwhile, the brave women of RAWA continue to work for peace and justice. They need economic, medical and legal support. Not increased militarism. That road will only strengthen the corrupt system that has been put in place.