Mujaddedi calls delegates 'infidel'

, 2 January 2004
KABUL, 1 Jan: EU representative Francesc Vendrell said on Thursday he was "very disturbed" after the chairman to Afghanistan's constitutional convention branded as "infidels" delegates who did not want the country described as Islamic.

The delegates collected more than the necessary 151 signatures and presented an amendment calling for the word "Islamic" to be removed from article one of the draft constitution, which describes Afghanistan as an "Islamic republic".

"We won't vote on this. People who suggest such things are infidels," said Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, chairman of the loya jirga, meeting to ratify the new constitution. The meeting was adjourned to Saturday after around 200 delegates boycotted the start of voting on disputed articles.

"I was very disturbed this morning when chairman Mujaddedi, perhaps not realizing what he was saying, that he threatened the delegates who had sponsored an amendment suggesting that Afghanistan be called the 'republic of Afghanistan' instead of the 'Islamic republic of Afghanistan'," Mr Vendrell told reporters in the huge white tent where the loya jirga has been meeting since Dec 14.

"I found that very puzzling from a person like Mujaddedi who is a Sufi leader and I always expected him to be tolerant," he said. "This is the word I expected to hear from the Taliban but I never heard it."

Mr Vendrell also criticized the process as lacking transparency and said the draft presented to the assembly was not the same as the document a committee of delegates had finally agreed on.

Freedom of expression an essential right

, 2 January 2004
It is absolutely essential that freedom of expression is ensured in Afghanistan, said Amnesty International as the Constitutional Loya Jirga (CLJ) draws to a close in Kabul and debate around key issues intensifies.

Amnesty International has received reports that intimidation and fear of retribution are preventing some delegates from participating freely in the CLJ.

Dominance by strong political and armed factional leaders and the absence of the rule of law in many parts of the country contributes to an atmosphere of insecurity for delegates who wish to act independently of powerful political groups. Some delegates fear for their safety of their families and for their own lives, especially after they return home at the end of the CLJ.

"Women are half of men"

Mr. Sighbatullah Mojadeddi, Chairperson of the Afghan Constitutional Loya Jirga, in regards to the human rights and civil rights:

"We all have to respect the vote. Women are free to vote for men. Men are free to vote for women. We cannot make this separation... Do not try to put yourself on a level with men. Even God has not given you equal rights because under his decision two women are counted as equal to one man."

The New York Times, December 16, 2003
By Amy Waldman

It is particularly worrying that even the elected leadership of the Loya Jirga have been involved in curtailing the freedom of speech during the Loya Jirga. In one example, a petition was circulated suggesting that the country's official name should be changed from the 'Islamic republic of Afghanistan' to the 'republic of Afghanistan'. The petition gained over 151 signatures, but the chair of the CLJ, Sebghatollah Mojadedi, refused to allow a vote on the issue, publicly calling those who had sponsored the petition 'infidels'. Amnesty International is concerned that this could place the sponsors of this petition in serious danger.

"The onus must be on the elected leadership of the CLJ to set an example by facilitating a free debate upholding freedom of expression. Discussions conducted in an atmosphere of fear will not produce a Constitution that protects the human rights of the Afghan people." Amnesty International concluded.

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