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The Victoria Times Colonist, November 1, 2011

Column: The return of the lash in Afghanistan

Recently, however, President Hamid Karzai signed into law a measure that allows for corporal punishment

By Hejratullah Ekhtiyar

KABUL, Afghanistan — Judges in Afghanistan’s southeast Nangarhar province have started sentencing anyone caught drinking alcohol to 80 lashes.

When the Taliban movement was in power, penalties derived from Islamic law were routinely imposed. Stoning or amputation was the norm for someone convicted of adultery or theft.

Once the Taliban were ousted in 2001, such harsh punishments were abandoned.

Recently, however, President Hamid Karzai signed into law a measure that allows for corporal punishment, as well as fines and imprisonment for those convicted of consuming alcohol.

In Nangarhar province, judges promptly started putting the penalty into practice.

Abdul Qayum, the chief prosecutor in the province, said his office had requested the sentence in 10 trials since the legislation came into force. He said the lashings have served as a serious deterrent and reduced the number of cases coming before the court.

When the Taliban movement was in power, penalties derived from Islamic law were routinely imposed. Stoning or amputation was the norm for someone convicted of adultery or theft.
Once the Taliban were ousted in 2001, such harsh punishments were abandoned.
Recently, however, President Hamid Karzai signed into law a measure that allows for corporal punishment, as well as fines and imprisonment for those convicted of consuming alcohol.
The Victoria Times Colonist, Nov. 1, 2011

"If Islamic principles are implemented for other crimes, too, the level of crime and corruption will fall significantly," he said.

Maulavi Abdul Aziz Khairkhwah, the head of religious affairs in the provincial administration, took a similarly hard-line stand.

"I can confidently tell you that security will not be established in Afghanistan unless the Sharia system and regulations are enforced," he said.

Khairkhwah worked as a judge under the Talban, and claims that crime has soared under the current government.

"Westerners want to impose their democracy — which includes obscene acts, drinking alcohol and other immoral things — on Afghanistan," he said. "These things are contrary to Islamic law. There are also individuals in the (current administration) who grew up in the West and are loyal to it. They are not properly informed about Islamic laws."

As for life under the previous regime, Khairkhwah concedes that "the Taliban went to extreme lengths, but Islamic regulations were generally enforced."

Public support for the tough line on alcohol appears widespread.

"It was absolutely necessary to come up with this law," lawyer Mohebollah Faruqi said. "Islam has already prescribed the penalties, and legislators do not dare draft laws that go against Sharia."

The head of the Independent Human Rights Commission in the eastern region, Rafiullah Bedar, said this form of corporal punishment was appropriate as long as the verdict was impartial and the accused was allowed a defense lawyer.

"The International Declaration of Human Rights is just an international document on ethics, not a binding document," he said. "It allows national governments to envisage punishments for crimes in accordance with religious, national and cultural principles."

Nangarhar resident Sharifullah is one of those convicted of consuming alcohol. He spent two months in jail and received 80 lashes after police caught him in a local park with a bottle of wine.

"The 80 lashes were easier for me than six months in prison would have been," he said.

Hejratullah Ekhtiyar is a reporter in Afghanistan who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict. Readers may write to the author at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: www.iwpr.net.

Category: HR Violations - Views: 4315