Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Draft law mirrors Taliban regime

In the summer of 2006, Human Rights Watch expressed its concern that Afghan President Karzai's cabinet had approved a proposal to reestablish the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban regimes' brutal and arbitrary morality police.

"Afghan women and girls face increasing insecurity, and it’s more important for the government to address how to improve their access to public life rather than limit it further," said an HRW researcher.

A female MP told HRW that she was worried that such a development could spur violence and repression. "The only hope is the Parliament," she said. (For more, see Appendix below.)

Fast forward to this week, when legislators in that same Afghan parliament have proposed their own set of Taliban-like restrictions:

Afghan parliament committee drafts Taliban-style moral law

KABUL, Apr 16 (AFP) - An Afghan legislative committee has drafted a bill seeking to introduce Taliban-style Islamic morality codes banning women from wearing make-up in public and forbidding young boys from wearing female fashions.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, needs approval by both chambers of the Islamist-dominated parliament and President Hamid Karzai signature to become a law.

"Women and girls are obliged to not wear make-up, wear suitable dresses and observe hijab (veil) while at work or classrooms," said one article of the draft.

It also aims to ban women dancers performing during concerts and other public events as well as on television. ...

In a similar move the parliament, which is dominated by former anti-Soviet Islamist warlords, called earlier this month for a ban on dancing and Indian soap dramas on private television networks.

Men and young boys must avoid wearing bracelets, necklaces, "feminist dresses," and hair-bands, the draft reads.

The proposals also demand an end to dog and bird-fighting, pigeon-flying, billiards and video games, all past times favoured by many Afghans.

It demands separate halls for men and women during wedding parties, while loud music is banned at such gatherings. Afghans hold big and costly get-togethers for weddings, usually in a public hall with music.

If the proposals are passed, violators could be fined 500 Afghanis (10 dollars) to 5,000, according to the draft.

The plans mirror many of the laws introduced by the extremist Taliban regime, which ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 with strict Islamic Sharia law. (link)
ANI, the Indian news sevice adds the following sketch:
The legislation would ban:

• Men from wearing bracelets, designer jeans, necklaces, earrings and T-shirts

• Men from growing their hair long, “like a girl’s”

• Pigeon flying, animal fighting and playing with birds on rooftops

• Men and women from talking with each other in public, unless they are related

• Loud music and loud speakers at weddings and restaurants

• Betting in snooker clubs

• Shops selling “revealing” clothing

• TVs, radios and cable companies from airing programmes that are anti-Islamic and detrimental to the young

• People from selling, keeping or importing DVDs or photos of naked or semi-naked women

• People from swearing at children or women in public
Girls would also have to start wearing the Hejab “properly” by covering all of their hair with the shawl. (link)
In other similar developments, the Afghan Supreme Court has approved some one hundred death sentences, thus putting the question of their approval before President Karzai:
Supreme Court issues 100 death sentences

KABUL, Apr 15 (AKI) - The Supreme Court of Afghanistan has in the past few weeks confirmed 100 death sentences issued by provincial courts. ...

"The court proceedings are carried out behind closed doors, without the presence of defence attorneys, and often without the presentation of any proof on the part of the public prosecutor," said Wadir Safi, a jurist and law professor at the University of Kabul.

"In essence, we can say that justice in our country does not work and the accused do not enjoy any form of guarantee." ... (link)

Appendix: The Department of Vice and Virtue was in fact reinstated, according to Rina Amiri of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and George Soros' Open Society Institute. Testifying before Canada's Standing Committee on National Defence (January 30, 2007) she observed:

The fact that the ministry of vice and virtue has now been reinstated as a department in the government is because of the pressure from the conservatives.

... [The vice and virtue department is] keeping a low presence and [Karzai] did this as a means of appeasement to the religious community.... (link to pdf)

The picture is muddied a bit when we read that the department was reinstated much earlier in Karzai's government:

Afghan Women Wary Of Vice & Virtue
AFGHANISTAN, Oct. 7, 2002

[A]s CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, in a development Washington is watching closely, the Kabul government has re-instituted the department of vice and virtue to safeguard Islamic values.

"It was a demand by some groups and we have accommodated it, but the real trend in Afghanistan is to move toward a civil society," says presidential spokesman Saeed Fazul Akhbar. ... (link)

Also, Indian journalist Aunohita Mojumdar wrote the following for Asia Times in 2006:

[T]he reality is that the department was never closed down by the Karzai government after it came to power, but lay dormant. Another little-reported fact is that the department was first set up under the mujahideen, though the Taliban upgraded it into a full-fledged ministry. ... (link)

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