Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Mr "Unlucky" has gotten lucky, but what about the Afghanistan peoples?

Heidi Vogt of the AP reveals that Parwez Kambakhsh -- whose last name means "Little Luck" or "Short on luck" -- has been quietly released from prison. His offense was asking questions about Islamic teaching on the status of women. That he was released seems like good news, but the delibertae inconspicuousness of the release reveals that the Karzai administration is unready to challenge the judicial system that put him in prison. Here is more evidence of the contradictions that people in Afghanistan have to live with: the administration holds a different view but doesn't want to rock the boat with the Islamic jurists -- even those who cannot bear to have questions asked about their rulings. It is a clash of moral visions, even moral orientations, that is implicit in much of what goes on the Middle East and Central Asia. And on this level women and women's status seem to occupy central stage. Even today a woman for no apparent reason was gunned down in Kandahar. For some people women are the emblem of many issues that seem to be at stake in their contested world. I don't know the answer but it appears that that contradiction in views -- sometimes held by the same person -- is endemic. RLC

Secret pardon frees Afghan journalism student
By Heidi Vogt, Associated Press Writer - Mon Sep 7, 9:48 am ET

KABUL - An Afghan journalism student who was jailed for asking questions in class about women's rights under Islam has been freed after nearly two years, a media rights group said Monday.

Activists have called Parwez Kambakhsh, who was convicted of blasphemy and originally sentenced to death, a victim of an Afghan justice system that panders to religious conservatives at the expense of individual freedoms.

He was released several weeks ago after President Hamid Karzai signed a pardon in secret, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which talked to his lawyer.

Kambakhsh has since fled Afghanistan out of fear that he will be the target of reprisal attacks, the group said. Afghan officials said they could not confirm his release.

Kambakhsh was studying journalism at Balkh University in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and writing for local newspapers when he was arrested in October 2007. He was 23.

Prosecutors said he showed contempt for Islam by asking questions about women's rights and for distributing an article he had taken off the Internet that asks why Islam does not modernize to give women equal rights. He also allegedly wrote his own comments on copies of the article.

The original death sentence in the Islamic state sparked an international uproar, and judges lightened the sentence to 20 years in a second trial. Rights groups sent thousands of petitions condemning the imprisonment and calling for Kambakhsh's release.

The case will be remembered as a "miscarriage of justice marked by religious intolerance, police mistreatment and incompetence on the part of certain judges," Jean-Francois Julliard, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement.

Some said Kambakhsh's arrest may have been a reprisal aimed at his brother, who angered Afghan warlords with writings about human rights violations and politics.

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