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Afghan Prisoners Sew Lips to Protest Government Policy

  • Ayesha Tanzeem

FILE - A prisoner looks out of his cell window at the main prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Almost 20 Afghan inmates in the Pul-i-Charkhi prison, on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, have sewn their lips shut to protest government policies.

They are part of a group of 300 prisoners who are on a hunger strike against a presidential decree denying them the right to serve jail time in their own provinces, rather than Kabul.

Abdul Halem Kohistani, the official in charge of protesting prisoners, said they also want to be included in presidential pardons usually granted around religious holidays like the Muslim holy festival of Eid.

Mohammad Hasham Alakozai, a member of Afghan senate, said prisoners arrested on drug-smuggling charges or for links to the Taliban also are among the protesters.

The Ministry of Interior confirmed the hunger strike, but it did not confirm that several inmates had sewn their lips. Najib Danish, the acting spokesman of MoI, said a joint delegation of MoI officials and the office of the attorney general will meet with the prisoners.

Hundreds of prisoners at the same facility had gone on a hunger strike at the end of February for what they claimed were violations of their rights.

This is not the first time that prisoners in Afghanistan have sewn their lips shut to draw attention to their condition.

Human rights groups sometimes have criticized conditions in Afghan prisons. A 2015 report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan revealed that one third of prisoners were either mistreated or tortured during detention.

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