We had about 40 people show up, plus police and reporters. Overall, I'd say there were 50-60 people there. Not too bad for a hard to reach part of the city, mid-day on a Friday...
I was touched so many people came out in support of Abdul Rahman's plight:
There were people there from the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the Free Republic, a gentleman making a statement on behalf of the East Turkistan government, the Family Research Council, various churches, and many others. I got to meet quite a few other bloggers as well -- Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of The Counterterrorism Blog, Jeff Harrell of The Shape of Days, Cam Edwards (who had the idea for the rally), and Michelle Malkin.
An Afghan who has renounced his Islamic faith for Christianity faces the death penalty under Afghan law in a throwback to the brutal Taleban regime. Abdul Rahman, 41, is being prosecuted for an "attack on Islam", for which the punishment under Afghanistan's draft constitution, is death by hanging.
I have to say I was very impressed by everyone there. I thought the media was very respectful with their questions and very courteous to everyone they spoke to. People speaking during the rally made sure to emphasize that this rally was about human rights and not about a political or religious agenda. The police were present, but did not interfere with anything going on and were very polite and accomodating to everyone there. In a nutshell, this is what freedom of speech and expression should be about. These are freedoms I hope and pray everyone in the world will one day be able to enjoy. Today is a day that made me proud of our country and the liberty we cherish, but so often take for granted.
Here are a few of the photos from today (click on each picture to see larger image):
Outside the Afghanistan embassy.
This sign stuck out to me...
Gettting ready to start...
I thought this sign was the best use of humor to make a serious point...
Opening the rally in prayer...
Christian Taylor from the Free Republic.
Making a statement on behalf of the East Turkistan government to release Abdul. I'm sorry I didn't catch his name. He said that the 2-year-old East Turkistan Constitution would have allowed Abdul Rahman the freedom of religion and emplored Afghanistan to release him.
Correction/Clarification -- One of my readers writes:
He is absolutely right. I watched the video I took of the speaker and he specifically mentioned it was the East Turkestan government-in-exile that issued this statement. My apologies for the lack of clarification.
A word of warning: East Turkistan is not an independent nation (although it should be). East Turkestan (I believe more often spelled that way) is an alternative name for the region called Xinjiang, which was conquered by the People’s Republic of China in 1949 after a brief period of independence. In September of 2004, a so-called government-in-exile was established (here in Washington). Most likely, the spokesman you talked to was from that organization. See here and here.
Quite a few reporters were there, including Reuters.
Cam Edwards, who had the idea for the rally, speaks to the media.
People from the Institute on Religion and Democracy speak to the press, saying that the Rahman's situtation highlights the danger of putting Islamic law into the Afgan and Iraqi constitutions.
Some of the signs from the rally...
People of all ages were there...
Michelle Malkin speaks to the crowd. I loved it when she said (in reference to his Christian faith):
"I had a post asking to save Abdul Rahman. Someone pointed out to me he's already saved."
Closing the rally in prayer...
Afterwards, I even had a chance to meet Michelle! That was very cool!
See more thoughts on today's rally here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Also, see more pictures here and a video of Cam Edwards speaking here.
I want to say a special thank you to everyone who came out today and everyone who helped make this happen.
Please continue to keep Abdul Rahman, Afghanistan, and all people everywhere who are being persecuted for their beliefs. I pray everyone around the world will someday enjoy the liberties we have here in America.
Update: Becket Fund offers legal assistance to Mr. Rahman
The Becket Fund has offered legal assistance to Abdul Rahman if he is punished for religious conversion in Afghanistan, from or to any religion, in presenting international law defenses before any tribunal. I sent a letter from the BF care of the Afghan embassy here in DC this morning.
Read more here, or read our letter to Mr. Rahman.We are in the process of having the letter translated into Pashtun, Farsi, and Dari. I understand that Mr. Rahman speaks Pashtun, but we are extending this offer to all Afghans.