Afghans Protest Iranian Interference
As Canadian fans of Ayatollah Khomeini beat their grovelling wings at an event commemorating the Ayatollah's demise (commemoraring it for all the wrong reasons), Afghans are putting their foot down at persistent Iranian interference in their nation's sovereignty.
As Michael Petrou of MacLean's explains of the event in Ottawa, co-hosted by the Iranian Embassy there and Carleton University's Iranian Cultural Association:
The conference featured a talk by Moulana Sayyid Muhhamad Rizvi, the “Guidance Alim” of a Toronto Islamic school whose teaching materials — some of which which were written in Iran or by a foundation believed by the FBI to be controlled by the Iranian government — refer to “crafty” and “treacherous” Jews.
Also on the agenda was Kurt Anders Richardson of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College, who drooled of Khomeini that he “was the one who emphasized the equality of human beings, the equality of male and female.”
This revelation is likely news to millions of Iranian men and women, and would have been news to thousands of more, if they hadn’t already have been tortured, raped, and murdered during Khomeini’s reign and its violent and ongoing aftermath.
It would also probably cause many an Afghan to roll their eyes, given Iran's role in influencing the original, horrifying content of the Shia Personal Status Law, infamously known as the "rape law," legislation that sought to re-Talibanize the status of Shia women by imposing a highly discriminatory family law code on them. It's quite a stretch to claim that the Ayatollah is friend to woman.
For their part, Afghans celebrated Khomeini's death by defacing and ripping down posters of him that had mysteriously appeared around Kabul ahead of the anniversary.
It's but the latest demonstration that Afghans are more than fed up with Iran's antics. Today, June 6, a group of Afghans held a peaceful demonstration outside of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul, protesting Iran's interference in Afghan affairs, and the hanging of Afghans by the Iranian Government.
Afghanistan's intelligence agency, NDS, recently exposed the extent to which the Iranian Government is financing propaganda through media outlets it controls in Afghanistan. As one report notes, "Iran spends $100 million a year in Afghanistan, much of it on the media, civil society projects and religious schools." An earlier report from classified cables found that,
According to several contacts, Iran's top policy goals in Parliament are: increasing criticism of civilian casualty incidents caused by Coalition forces, encouraging the Afghan Parliament to "legalize" foreign forces, advocating rights for Shia (including a separate judicial system), promoting "Persian culture," and limiting Western support to Afghan media. These subjects often dominate parliamentary debates, even when not on the official agenda.
While Iranian Government meddling is common knowledge in Afghanistan (Afghans frequently watch stories on their nightly news of weapons being discovered by police en route to insurgents, courtesy of Iran), discretionary tactics were abandoned in favour of more overt interference as Iran became blindly enraged over the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership.
Iran-backed media in Afghanistan ran a panicked campaign to smear the agreement ahead of it going before the Afghan parliament. Iran’s Ambassador to Afghanistan met with the senate speaker, Fazel Hadi Muslimyar, urging the senate to reject the agreement, an act that earned widespread condemnation among the Afghan public, as the speaker made the request public, and prompted a visit from the Afghan Foreign Affairs minister to the Iranian envoy to remind him that Afghanistan is an independent country that can manage its own political affairs.
Shortly thereafter, several MPs came forward alleging that Iranian officials had invited them to guesthouses in Wazir Akbar Khan where they were offered bribes to get them to vote against the agreement. Iran had reportedly budgeted US$25 million for this purpose.
Hundreds of thousands of flyers were distributed around Kabul overnight one day in May, with the following message (translated from Dari):
To independent and Muslim people of Afghanistan!
We come up together against the long-term presence of colonialism in our country as protest for signing a colonial strategic agreement with US.
Time: After Friday Prayers
Gathering place: In front of Gardana Mosque- Baghibala- Kabul
The NDS suspected the Iranian Government as being behind the flyers, which is ironic given their attempt to use the "colonialism" argument. It's hard to say whether Afghanistan's greatest threat of colonization comes from Iran or Pakistan, but it's safe to say that with neighbours like those...
The protest went ahead on May 18th, and was attended by fewer than 300 people. A laughable little affair, it didn't even merit a mention in the local news.
As the Afghan parliament remained defiant, the Iranian Government threatened to kick out Afghan refugees in Iran (who number approximately one million), a move emblematic of just how low the regime will sink in its efforts to keep its claws firmly around its neighbour.
Afghans are justifiably wary of the hawk perched to their immediate West, and its goal of destabilizing Central Asia's linchpin, Afghanistan, and asserting regional dominance at the expense of secularism, democracy and human rights. Carleton University and Kurt Anders Richardson would be well advised to be so too.
Lauryn Oates is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist.