"Bad attitudes" land Afghan women in jail

Enter the cells of the Badam Bagh prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, and what culprits will you find locked up inside? A 16-year old recipient of an unplanned marriage proposal, a pregnant wife irrationally accused of adultery, and a veiled old woman who just displayed a "bad attitude."

These unlikely suspects were accused of "moral crimes," a new category of infractions for which half the incarcerated females in Afghanistan are held. The "immoral" misdemeanors also include refusing to marry, resisting rape or being raped, and -- especially devastating in light of prevalent and severe domestic violence that compels many women to flee belligerent spouses -- running away from home. Numerous "moral crimes" do not actually violate or even pertain to penal code; but this grouping of offenses requires no codification. Rather, they are loosely described as violations of Sharia law, however the accuser may choose to interpret it. In other words, "moral crimes" altogether lack definition, merely subscribing to a "You'll know it when you see it" kind of classification that allows discrimination to infiltrate the legal system.

In some respects, conditions for impounded women have actually improved. Hundreds of female inmates were previously held with male inmates at the notoriously inhumane Pul-e-Charki prison; but after parliamentary reports revealed the frequency of rape within its walls, the reportedly cozy Badam Bagh -- in which women can move freely, take computer classes, and sew and sell handcrafts -- was built. Clearly once detained, the women aren't subject to any kind of "Black Jail," where beatings, sleep deprivation, and isolation in cold cells are daily protocol.

But the reasons behind their detentions remain discriminatory and cruel. These ill-fated women, jailed with their children for what can be indefinite periods of time, are surely suffering from the crackdown on "moral crimes" -- the enforcement of which propagates the notion that immorality is inherent to the female sex.



Iran Contra colonel gets caught for arms smuggling... again

Some people just don't know when to quit. You'd think that having one showdown with federal prosecutors would be enough to last you a lifetime. Or if not, that seeing the charges against you get dropped would serve as a sign that, maybe, you got lucky and shouldn't tempt fate again. Not so for one Joseph O'Toole, whom the Justice Department is trying for arms smuggling for the second time in as many decades.

O'Toole's new court fight will take place over his alleged involvement in shipping AK-47s to East Africa's most lawless non-state, Somalia. A surge in violence there this summer -- including a pair of mosque bombings and attacks on the country's parliament and presidential palace -- have killed peacekeepers, civilians, and militant rebels alike, despite a continued UN arms embargo

According to his indictment, O'Toole -- a retired U.S. Air Force colonel -- sought to hire a transportation service to ship seven-and-a-half tons of assault rifles to northern Somalia. It would be a $116,000 deal, with a $2,000 commission for O'Toole. Unfortunately, this is probably the most expensive two grand the colonel has ever made; his source at the shipping company turned out to be working with U.S. customs agents.

O'Toole's Somali smuggling trial comes almost twenty years after he and an Israeli co-conspirator were accused of illegally selling military cargo planes to Iran, and over 700 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to someone else. The two men got off light that time, evidently because the evidence was too thin, but as they say -- if at first you don't succeed, try and try again.

Hat tip: Laura Rozen