Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was released from prison in Iran today after her eight-year sentence for “spying” was commuted. This is a satisfying moment for journalists around the world, but sends a confusing message about the U.S. government’s support of freedom of speech in Afghanistan.
The U.S. government, notably Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, both spoke out repeatedly and forcefully against the ludicrous charges against Saberi. Strong political pressure throughout the U.S. State Department was brought against the Iranian government to compel it to free the journalist. The Iranians, hoping to improve relations with the U.S., quickly bent to the official outcry.
Why not in Afghanistan? Young student-journalist, Parwiz Kambakhsh, sits in a filthy prison in Kabul serving a 20 year sentence for “blasphemy” after being accused of possessing public documents the government disagreed with. First, a local court sentenced him to death. After a secret hearing, the Afghan Supreme court, “reduced” it to 20 years in prison. More than six months ago, when international media spotlighted the dirty business, President Karzai promised he would personally see that justice would be done. Yet Khambaksh still sits in jail, in violation of the Afghan constitution and international human rights conventions.
Why does the U.S. government ignore Khambaksh’s situation, while putting so much pressure on Iran? The dire situation of a threatened and muzzled press in Afghanistan is so universally acknowledged that any Afghan journalist who makes it to the U.S., E.U., U.K., Australia and other nations is immediately granted political asylum. Aren’t Americans giving billions of dollars a year and tens of thousands of soldiers to prop up the Karzai government and its questionable band of ministers and judges?
In light of the admirable pressure to promote a free press shown by Obama and Clinton against the Iranian regime which receives no U.S. aid or support, it makes sense to immediately initiate the same effort for Afghan journalists with the Afghan government. It is time that real pressure is put on Afghan leaders to respect their own constitution and international human rights accords and free Parwiz Kambakhsh.
Journalists in Afghanistan face regular threats, violence, and unjust prosecution from corrupt elements in the Afghan government in their struggle to promote democracy in their country. It is time to show them and all Afghans that American treasure, and the blood of American soldiers are not being given in vain.
Please sign our petition requesting immediate U.S. intervention in the case of Parwiz Kambakhsh, just like the efforts to intervene in the case of Roxana Seberi. It will be delivered by hand by representatives of KabulPress to the U.S. White House and the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C.
PETITION TO FREE PARWIZ KAMBAKHSH,
UNJUSTLY IMPRISONED JOURNALIST IN AFGHANISTAN
We, the undersigned, hereby request that the U.S. Department of State and the Office of the U.S. President immediately demand from the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, that student-journalist Parwiz Kambakhsh, an Afghan citizen, whose constitutional rights and human rights are being grossly violated by the Afghan government, be immediately released.