Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, the editor of an Afghan women’s rights magazine who was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison, is facing increasing calls for harsher punishments, including a recent fatwa demanding that Nasab repent or be executed. Nasab was arrested and jailed after publishing articles questioning harsh punishments doled out under some interpretations of sharia (Islamic) law, including 100 lashes for adultery and death by stoning for conversion to another religion, as well as articles arguing for women’s equality. Muhammed Aref Rahmani, a member of the national Shiite Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars), explaining his concern over the articles published in Nasab’s women’s rights magazine, told the Washington Post, “Sometimes the whole religion and the rules of the religion were attacked…For instance, he says one woman should be equal to one man, as a witness in a case, which is completely against our religion.”
In addition to the fatwa calling for Nasab’s execution, the Supreme Court in Afghanistan issued a fatwa saying Nasab “should be given the harshest punishment, so he will be a lesson to others,” according to the Post.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which has been working for Nasab’s release since he was arrested in October, sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on December 9 calling for him to intervene in the case. According to the US-based organization, the state prosecutor said that arrest warrants have been issued for individuals in Afghanistan who have defended Nasab. The Chicago Tribune reports that between Nasab’s arrest and his sentencing three weeks later, local media outspokenly supported Nasab, including running an open letter signed by Afghan intellectuals, but since then there has not been much public support.
Nasab’s case is currently being appealed. The Feminist Majority is calling on women’s rights supporters in the United States to email Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky to actively support the appeal seeking reversal of the decision imprisoning Ali Mohaqiq Nasab and to urge the global community to join them in their efforts.