Leading article: Freedom for Pervez, but a sobering reminder of tyranny

A welcome outcome to a campaign that mobilised opinion worldwide

Share
Related Topics

The news that the imprisoned Afghan student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh is now a free man is very welcome. Kambaksh, after all, was arrested in October 2007 for a crime that no citizen of a democratic state would consider an offence. All he did was to download some articles on the treatment of women in the Islamic world and distribute them among his colleagues at his university in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

For this misdemeanour he was denounced by the local religious zealots and sentenced to death. After several months spent on death row in the grimmest conditions imaginable, an appeal resulted in the sentence being commuted to 20 years. Now we are pleased to report that he has been secretly pardoned and spirited out of the country to a safe place somewhere in Europe.

The Independent was the first newspaper in Britain to report this whole appalling business in January last year. Since then more than 100,000 people have subsequently signed our petition calling on the Foreign Office to exert pressure on the authorities in Kabul to release Mr Kambaksh and a host of organisations has become involved in the young student's plight. The United Nations criticised the handling of the trial. The European Parliament condemned the sentence. Human rights organisations, such as PEN, adopted the cause. The then US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was persuaded to take up the matter personally with the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.

Some credit should go to Afghanistan's much criticised leader for the release of Pervez Kambaksh. Mr Karzai faced a dilemma. He was subjected to vehement criticism from Western politicians and civil society groups for allowing the student to be imprisoned in the first place. But he also received savage attacks at home from conservatives for allegedly showing too much readiness to bow to Western pressure on the issue. Whatever political calculations lay behind his final decision, he did the right thing in permitting this man to leave.

The fact that Mr Kambaksh will probably spend the rest of his life outside Afghanistan, possibly under a new name, however, is a sobering reminder that this is not an episode with an entirely happy ending. It is indeed a depressing reflection on the state of Afghanistan eight years after Nato forces intervened to topple the Taliban government that a young man has had to flee the country for the "crime" of trying to engage people in a discussion on the dismal state of women's rights.

Following shortly after Mr Karzai's decision to approve a controversial law that permits men to refuse their wives food or money if they deny them sex, it might suggest to some people that women's rights have not improved at all since the Taliban were forced from Kabul. This verdict is too harsh. We should not forget that no girls were allowed any kind of education under the Taliban while today a couple of million girls are at school. There has been a start.

Meanwhile, the Kambaksh case once again reminds us that when public opinion is mobilised throughout the world behind a good cause, it can – just occasionally – force politicians to change their minds. For that we should be grateful.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Sales Account Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - Cyber Security

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager for Cyber Secur...

Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst - Application Support - Central London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst (App...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engineer (Windows Server, Exchange Server)

£35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engine...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum