Jan 21, 2013

War for Words: Freedom of Speech After America Leaves Afghanistan

Afghan writers and reporters face a worsening situation. Some fear that the gains made for freedom of speech will disappear with the drawdown of foreign forces.

Prominent Afghan writer Taqi Bakhtiari has been condemned to death over his latest book Gumnani (Anonymity) by fundamentalist Afghan Shiite clerics. The clerics, who are tied to the Qom School in Iran, refer to Bakhtiari as “the little Salman Rushdie.” The news was first published on Deutsche Welle Farsi website and went viral on social networking websites, especially Facebook. Later BBC Persian also published a report detailing the issue.

Gumnani is about Mirjan, a young Afghan Shiite from the Hazara minority, who travels to Iran to study in a Madrasa. After being accepted into a religious Madrasa in Isfahan, Mirjan is raped by his Iranian teacher, an Ayatollah.

Facing abuse and mistreatment from his Iranian Ayatollah, the young Afghan boy’s dream for religious studies is shattered and he ends his studies. Mirjan starts reading unreligious books and later returns back to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan the young boy experience constant upheavals disillusioned and depressed. Though Mirjan grew up as a religious boy with tribal traditions guiding him, the rape by his Ayatollah changes Mirjan and he becomes an atheist, criticizing religious beliefs.

Bakhtiari, the writer of the story has said to the BBC that the story is based on true events. Criticism of religious figures, especially Ayatollahs who are high authorities in Islamic Shiite jurisprudence, is unusual among the Afghan Shiite minority. Continue reading on openDemocracy...

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