Saturday, February 02, 2008

Freedoms in Afghanistan and Iraq? You having a laugh?

REMEMBER the 'Four Freedoms'? Not a vocal group, nor a pizza topping, as I recall they were enunciated by a US president as " Freedom of Speech, and Religion. Freedom from Want, and from from Fear". Guess I'm showing my age. It was Roosevelt speaking a year before I was born, but it sounded fresh and good when I was growing up in post-war years.

Still, we keep hearing about freedom from time to time, Mrs. Thatcher once told us Afghan mujahaddin were "batting for freedom", and more recent rulers who praise the batty old dame assure us British and US forces are bombing and bashing for freedom and democracy, would you believe. So do pro-war liberal media hacks .
So how are these freedoms faring in the lands which Uncle Sam and John Bull have delivered from evil dictatorship?

I've had two appeals for support for campaigns this week. First from Iraq, once among the most developed and prosperous countries in the Middle East, where sanctions and war drove millions into poverty and hunger, and child malnutrition doubled within two years of the invasion.

Now it seems the pro-occupier regime which has kept Saddam Hussein's anti-union laws handy is dispensing with its predecesor's food rationing system. Yes, freedom is precious, and must be rationed, but people will be free to buy as much food as they can afford, or go hungry. Children won't have any choice, because they don't have money.

Here's an appeal from an Iraqi exile desperate at the news he gets from home:

Dear Comrades,

please find below a link to the online petition against the planned elimination of the ration system in Iraq, which the US/UK protected Iraqi government want to end by June.

If this ends, then millions of people are going to be left in absolute poverty and it will undoubtedly mean that millions of people are going to be left to literally starve to death.

As British and American troops are currently occupying Iraq, this means that people in the UK and US have both a legal and moral responsibility to voice your objections to this!

If this is allowed to happen, Iraq will surely be turned from a concentration camp, into a death camp!

Please also help by spreading the word!


Hussein Al-alak
The Iraq Solidarity Campaign

That's freedom from want.

And now freeom from fear, in Afghanistan.
We start with a report from the Independent.

Sentenced to death: Afghan who dared to read about women's rights

Thursday, 31 January 2008

A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country's rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after "liberation" and under the democratic rule of the West's ally Hamid Karzai.

The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

After an international outcry led by the Independent, but taken up many rights campaigners, the Afghan Senate has withdrawn a motion confirming the death sentence.

The MP who proposed the ruling condemning Mr Kambaksh was Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a key ally of Mr Karzai. The Senate also attacked the international community for putting pressure on the Afghan government and urged Mr Karzai not to be influenced by outside un-Islamic views.

Kambaksh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, is also a journalist and has written articles for IWPR in which he accused senior public figures, including an MP, of atrocities, including murders. He said: "Of course we are all very worried about my brother. What has happened to him is very unjust. He has not committed blasphemy and he was not even allowed to have a legal defence. and what took place was a secret trial."

Qayoum Baabak, the editor of Jahan-i-Naw, said a senior prosecutor in Mazar-i-Sharif, Hafiz Khaliqyar, had warned journalists that they would be punished if they protested against the death sentence passed on Mr Kambaksh.

The Afghan government wants to show it can act tough, independently of its Western patrons. It recently expelled a British and an Irish representative, claiming they had entered negotiations with the Taliban in Helmund province. Aghanistan's leading woman MP, Malali Joya, has been suspended after criticising male colleagues.

Although the Afghan senate has temporarily backed off, the journalist's life is still under threat, with Muslim clerics taking the occasion to assert their authority and demand the death sentence. Even if he is spared he may not find it safe to remain in Afghanistan.

You can sign the Independent's e-petition at

I see there's a demonstration on Friday at the Afghan embasy in London, called by the association of former Muslims and the National Secular Society. I'm not too keen on either organisation, although I admire the former's courage. Still, I'm sure no one will object if more
'mainstream' left-wing or rights organisations wish to take up the issue.

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