KABUL, Afghanistan -- When Ali Mohaqeq Nasab returned to Afghanistan last year after a long exile, he thought the atmosphere had opened up enough to raise questions about women's rights and the justice system in his country's nascent democracy.
But the magazine publisher's provocative essays put him at the mercy of that system. He was imprisoned on blasphemy charges and facing possible execution until his release last week.
After refusing for three months to retract his comments, Nasab told an appeals court last week that he was sorry for writing stories that asserted women should be given equal status to men in court, that questioned the use of harsh physical punishments for crimes, and suggested that converts from Islam should not face execution.
Wait a second. We overthrew the Taliban (which was a good thing to do). We helped the Afghanis hold elections. They've got an elected government. So why don't they have freedom of the press? How come democracy does not liberalise their society? Democracy isn't a panacea? Illiberal illiterate peasants will elect an illiberal repressive theocratic government? Democracy just becomes rule by the tribal leaders of the illiterate repressive illiberal masses who embrace a religion that is very hostile to non-believers? Sure looks that way to me.
A month or two ago Sri Lanka held an election and I remember reading predictions then by some analysts that the election of a hardliner as President was sure to encourage the Tamils to intensify their rebellion. Those predictions were correct. The democratic election of Mahinda Rajapakse as President of Sri Lanka appears to have catalyzed an intensification of the Sri Lankan civil war.
All told, 45 Sri Lankan soldiers, sailors and police officers have died in December alone, ratcheting up fears of a full-scale retaliation by the Sri Lankan military and a resumption of a two-decade-long civil war. Grenade and land-mine attacks against the military have become routine fare in the Tamil-majority areas under government control, as have targeted assassinations.
And yet, on paper, the 2002 cease-fire agreement, monitored by Norway, still holds. "It's going from bad to worse," said Erik Solheim, Norway's minister of international development, in a telephone interview on Tuesday night. "It's very worrying. It's a kind of shadow war."
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's newly elected president, Mahinda Rajapakse, prepared to meet with India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, here in the Indian capital on Wednesday. Mr. Rajapakse has suggested that he wants New Delhi to play a greater role in the peace talks, an idea that India is unlikely to embrace readily.
Of course, a certain country back in 1860 had an election that touched off a war that killed half a million people out of a total population of about 20 million. That's more dead than have died in all that country's foreign wars combined.
Democracy is not a panacea.
I want to compile a list of all the countries that have had civil wars or coups or dictatorships started as a result of reactions to elections. Anyone who knows of good examples please post in the comments.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 December 28 10:55 PM Chaotic Regions|