The Strange And Sordid Persecution Of Afghan Reporter Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh
Things are looking grim for Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, the 23-year-old Afghan journalist facing a death sentence for blasphemy. A few hours ago, the Afghan Senate passed a motion supporting the religious-court verdict, and the MP who introduced the motion is Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a key ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Senate also spent some time braying and bleating about how Karzai should not be influenced by un-Islamic outsiders in the matter.
The good news is the senate motion has no legal bearing on the case, Kaambakhsh still has avenues of appeal open to him, Karzai himself is within his constitutional prerogative to intervene, and the international campaign on behalf of Sayed is growing.
The UN, human rights organizations, journalists' associations and diplomats are all urging Karzai to spare the young man's life. Britain's Independent newspaper has itself launched a petition campaign in the UK on the reporter's behalf.
This is where us Canucks come into it.
We should all be flooding Prime Minister Stephen Harper's e-mail inbox (Harper.S@parl.gc.ca) with letters urging him to take a very hard line on this. We should be writing to Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, too (BerniM@parl.gc.ca). It would also be a good idea to write letters of protest to His Excellency Omar Samad, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you do, keep a civil tongue in your head. You can bet that the ambassador isn't any happier about all this than we are. Besides, he's one of the good guys.
I've already written mine. Now we only need a few thousand more, and if Canadians spend a fraction of the energy on Sayed's predicament as has been wasted bloviating for and against Ezra Levant (whose case is, by comparison, the equivalent of a visit from a health inspector), we just might make a real difference (and here I should concede I've contributed my own fair share of Ezra-bloviation).
Here's a just-published, hurriedly-written account of the whole sordid affair by Sayed's brother Ibrahim (Yacub). It reads like something straight out of Kafka.
Canada is facing some horribly difficult decisions about Afghanistan at the moment, and the Afghan government is intimately aware of the debates underway in this country. Karzai is facing a rising chorus of "U.S. Puppet" jeers from Afghanistan's extreme right, so it's touchy, and Sayed has found himself caught up in this rat's nest of intrigue. But Canada does have some leverage. Ottawa and Kabul need to know that Afghanistan's friends around the world are taking this case very, very seriously.
And speaking of taking things seriously, the U.S. Afghanistan Study Group has just released its findings, which are similar to the conclusions reached by Canada's own report from John Manley's Independent Panel last week. The Yanks reckon that without more troops and a better commitment to reconstruction, Afghanistan could easily revert to the "failed state" conditions that prevailed when the Taliban was in power.
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber blew himself up, killed somebody else and wounded several others in Kabul yesterday, while out in Nuristan the Taliban just beheaded four road-crew workers they'd kidnapped.
And so the stomach turns.