Afghanistan President Names New Women’s Affairs Minister

Mahboba Hoqooqmal was appointed as the Minister of Women Affairs in Afghanistan today. The appointment of Hoqooqmal, former head of law at Kabul University, vice-chair of the loya jirga commission, and a women’s rights advocate, comes in the wake of threats to outgoing Minister Dr. Sima Samar and concerns that the Ministry might be eliminated altogether because of pressure from religious extremists. The post had been the only remaining cabinet leadership position yet to be filled by President Hamid Karzai.

Attacks on Samar began at the loya jirga after she won election as vice-chair of the national assembly. An Afghan newspaper accused Samar of saying that she did not believe in Islamic law in an interview with an Iranian newspaper based in Canada. Following Wednesday’s conclusion of the loya jirga, Samar received threats and was rumored to be in hiding, seeking asylum from the United Nations, kidnapped by militiamen or even dead, according to the Washington Post. However, in an interview Monday, Samar told the Post: “Some of these people call me the Salman Rushdie of Afghanistan,” she said, referring to the Indian-born British author who was threatened with death by the late leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini. “They said I insulted Islam, but I haven’t done that. The real Islam has nothing to do with these crazy things.” Samar may assume responsibility of the newly established Human Rights Commission.

Afghanistan’s Supreme Court announced today that it had dropped a blasphemy charge against Samar, according to Reuters. Deputy Chief Justice Fazel Ahmad Manawi said that although many people had lodged complaints against Samar, the Supreme Court dropped the case due to lack of evidence. “Ms. Samar came to see the chief justice and denied insulting Islam, and she insisted that she is a believer in Islam,” Manawi told Reuters. “So the court has changed its mind about prosecuting her. Maybe if we get stronger evidence, we will reopen the case.”


Washington Post 6/24/02; Associated Press 6/24/02; CNNÕs Late Edition 6/23/02; BBC News 6/24/02; Reuters 6/24/02

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