Accessibility links

Breaking News

Police Raid On Expelled Afghan MP's Hunger Strike Could Backfire

Simeen Barakzai's hunger strike has succeeded in drawing Afghan and international attention to her puzzling exclusion from the Afghan parliament.

But on Day 12 of her protest, with public outrage mounting and at least 13 sympathizers joining her in refusing food, authorities intervened. Barakzai was whisked into a vehicle and the tent encampment was at least partially dismantled in a nighttime raid in downtown Kabul. It was still unclear whether hospital staff fed or hydrated Barakzai; at least one source -- from Tolo TV -- suggested she had received "injections."

User csrl1390 has posted an audio recording labeled "Simin Barakzai exclusive telephone message during captivity 14 10 2011 2300" (presumably should say "13 10 2011"). We couldn't authenticate it, so it's not reflected in our story on the raid.

In it, a Dari-speaking woman speaks frantically, and at times incoherently. "They forced me to come to this hospital. I screamed again and again that I wouldn't go with them. But then they beat me," she cries.

She goes on to ask: "For God's sake, what do they want from me? What have I done? I've done nothing wrong. I'm not going to stay in this hospital. They just threw me into a car and dragged me here. I think they're going to kill me."

Here's the audio:

Hunger strikes are wholly dependent on the moral high ground, so perceptions could prove pivotal in this ongoing political battle.

Barakzai's misfortune arose from what looks to many outsiders like an arbitrary decision -- 62 lawmakers should have been unseated, according to the presidentially packed Independent Election Commission, but only Barakzai and eight others were ousted.

The strong-arm tactics employed in the police action -- captured in this video -- are likely to complicate the situation. It won't help that fellow protesters told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that police dressed as physicians handcuffed and abused them before taking them to a police station, where they spent the night in custody.

If it turns out to be authentic, the audio recording of a legislator -- past or current -- talking about her beating at the hands of police and fearing for her life in custody, are likely to reflect even more poorly on Afghan authorities.

-- Frud Bezhan/Andy Heil