Thursday, January 24, 2008

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan

The power of the warlords and right-wing mullahs is rising:

An Afghan reporter was sentenced to death for blasphemy by a court yesterday for allegedly questioning the prophet Muhammad's respect for women's rights.

The case has raised concerns over declining press freedom in Afghanistan and the growing power of militia commanders and ultra-conservative clerics.

Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, a 23-year-old reporter for the Jahan-e-Now daily, was tried behind closed doors and without a lawyer in the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif after allegations by university classmates that he had mocked Islam and circulated an article that argued the prophet Muhammad had ignored the rights of women. Kaambakhsh denied writing the article, saying his name was added after it was printed, but he was found guilty.

Imposing the death sentence, the judge said Kaambakhsh would have the opportunity to appeal to three higher courts.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), which trains Afghan journalists and promotes independent reporting around the world, said the case against Kaambakhsh was a fabrication, motivated by a desire by warlords in northern Afghanistan to silence his brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, also a journalist, who had written investigative reports exposing their abuse of human rights.

Not much to say about all this, except that there was a small opening to make a real difference in Afghanistan and that opening was closed once most of the war-money went to Iraq. To also turn that country into a right-wing theocracy, really.

And no, letting the warlords fight it out over power is not democracy.