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Since we’ve been talking the last few weeks about the surge in airstrikes by US forces in Iraq, I thought it would be helpful to see one of the weapons being used there on a regular basis.

According to Air Force Link, the “official web site of the United States Air Force,” we’re using “guided bomb unit-38s” or Jdams to “clear IEDs” in houses or on roads across the coutnry. (Air Force Link provides a daily update on “airpower” used in Iraq and Afghanistan).

The video at right shows the power of just one of these bombs which are considered “lightweight” munitions.

While we depend more and more on air strikes in Iraq, we’re moving more forces to Afghanistan where things go from bad to worse.

A very young reporter has just been sentenced to death in Afghanistan and the case points to the return of both judicial extremists and the continuing power of the warlords:

A journalist in northern Afghanistan, Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy in a summary trial in which he had no legal representation and no opportunity to defend himself.

Sentencing took place in a closed session of the lower court of Balkh region on January 22.

“It was about four pm when guards brought me into a room where there were three judges and an attorney sitting behind their desks. There was no one else,” Kambakhsh told IWPR.

“The death sentence had already been written. I wanted to say something, but they would not let me speak.

“They too said nothing. They just handed me a piece of paper on which it was written that I had been sentenced to death. Then armed guards came and took me out of the room, and brought me back to the prison.”

Kaambakhsh is a third-year journalism student at Balkh University, and also reports for the Jahan-e-Naw daily in Mazar-e-Sharif. He was arrested on October 27, 2007, on charges of distributing anti-Islamic propaganda.

The accusation was based on an article from the internet that had been circulated around Balkh University, ostensibly signed by Kaambakhsh. The student insists he had nothing to do with the paper and did not sign it.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting told the BBC it "believed Kambakhsh may have been targeted because his brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, a staff reporter for the institute, had written articles that criticised local strongmen."

"We feel very strongly that this is a complete fabrication on the part of the authorities… designed to put pressure on Perwiz’s brother Yaqub, who has done some of the hardest-hitting pieces outlining abuses by some very powerful commanders in Balkh and the other northern provinces," the institute’s country director Jean MacKenzie said.

In fact, the Afghan Information Ministry in fact stated:

"But his arrest and sentence given to him has not been in relation with his journalistic activities and thus has no connection with the work of this ministry," it said.

Afghan journalists are very concerned:

Haroon Najafizada, secretary for the South Asian Free Media Association in northern Afghanistan, is concerned at the way this case has been handled and its implications for free speech.

“This sentence was passed in closed session. The media should have been present,” he said. “If things continue like this, freedom of speech in northern Afghanistan will be in serious jeopardy, and reporters will begin to censor themselves.”

On January 21, the day before sentence was passed, a group of journalists gathered in the Balkh governor’s office to protest Kaambakhsh’s continued detention.

According to Najafizada, the prosecutor threatened reprisals if the media did not back down.

“Hafiz Khaliqyar, the prosecutor for Balkh, spoke to us in a very bad tone,” said Najafizada. “In front of the governor and all of the authorities in Balkh, he said that he would arrest anyone who defended Kambakhsh.”

RAWA is asking for help to free Perwiz from this sentence:

The accusations are so ridiculous and injudicious that they make any freedom-loving person want to stand and say enough is enough. Mr. Kambakhsh is accused of printing/distributing an article from the Internet, which points out controversial verses of the Quran regarding women’s rights. The book “Religion in the History of Civilization” (by Will Durant) taken from his living room has been kept as an evidence against him in the court!

In a country where for the last six years there are many claims regarding “democracy”, “human rights”, and “freedom of press”, the religious fascists have their grip on justice and try every possible way to mute anyone who criticizes or comments about the Northern Alliance criminals.

Imprisonment of Parwiz Kambakhsh is not only for his enlightening articles in a local newspaper, Jahan-e-Now (The New World), but also because of his brother Yaqub Ibrahimi, who is a well-known, brave and realistic reporter and exposed many criminal faces from Jehadi mafia in Northern Afghanistan to the world public.

You can join in an email campaign to plead for Perwiz’ life and freedom with emails to:

Presidential Office:

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

The Supreme Court of Afghanistan

And by contacting the The Embassy of Afghanistan at:

Main Telphone: 202.483.6410
Main Fax: 202.483.6488
E-Mail: info@embassyofafghanistan.org

So far, President Karzai has been silent about the Perwiz case – but he has been making speeches at Davos where he rejected the appointment of Lord Paddy Ashdown, who was lined up to be the new UN Special Envoy. Ashdown did not seem too disappointed:

“It would have been an extremely tough job, a bit of a dangerous one and the chance of success wasn’t great,” the former paratrooper said. He would be content to spend the time instead with his garden and grandchildren in Somerset, England.

It appears that a major factor blocking his appointment were demonstrations by the National Unity Council:

Members of the National United Council, a grouping dominated by former warlords from the north of Afghanistan, recently demonstrated against Lord Ashdown’s appointment outside UN offices in Kabul.

Perhaps because Ashdown “pushed through a string of sensitive reforms, which included efforts to merge two ethnically divided armies, and the sacking of 60 officials suspected of belonging to a support network for war crimes suspects” during his service in Bosnia."

I’m so glad one of the "big three issues" George Bush plans to "talk about in the State of the Union will be, first, the Iraq War — he’ll talk about all the progress being made." I wonder if the people of Iraq and Afghanistan will be impressed?



Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com