Women are greatly oppressed in Afghanistan's tribal society but the lynching and burning of a 27-year-old woman in Kabul has horrified people worldwide. In Kabul, women took the unprecedented step of carrying the coffin of the victim, Farkhunda, to the cemetery amid calls for the arrest and punishment of the culprits and the police that stood by watching the mob perpetrate the crime.
Sunday March 22, 2015, 12:19 DST
In an unprecedented act of defiance, hundreds of Afghan women carried the coffin of 27-year-old Farkhunda who was lynched by a mob and her body set on fire in Kabul. The horrific act occurred on Thursday (March 19) when a mob accused the woman of desecrating a copy of the Qur’an. Farkhunda’s coffin was carried to the graveyard by women amid crowds of men today (Sunday March 22).As the coffin was carried, the crowd shouted “Allah o Akbar” (Allah is the greatest). There were loud demands that the government bring the killers to justice.
“This is a crime against this family, a crime against a sister and a crime against humanity,” Bari Salam, a human rights activist, was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP) from Kabul. “All those involved and all those who supported her killing should be brought to justice,” he said. The lynching took place in full view of several police officers that stood by without taking any action to stop the horrific crime. The police conduct sparked widespread condemnation at home and abroad.
There have been reports that Farkhunda “suffered mental illness for many years”, according to the United Nations, a claim her father denied. He said his daughter had a diploma in Islamic studies and could recite the Qur’an by heart. He also insisted she was not involved in burning the noble book. Farkhunda's brother, Najeebullah Malikzada, supported his father's claim. “Farkhunda was a deeply religious girl. She used to recite the Qur’an and pray five times a day,” he told the crowd at the funeral. “This brutal act once again shows the incompetence of the police force,” Mariam Mustafawi, one of those at the burial said. “Today our police force is unable to enforce the rule of law. How can they protect us against the enemy?”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is on a visit to the US, condemned the killing as “heinous” and ordered a commission to investigate the incident. He said the police play a crucial role in the war against the Taliban but they were not well-trained to contain such incidents. “Almost 90 percent of the duties of the police today are focused on fighting, which is not their constitutional role, it is not their legal role,” Ghani told reporters on Saturday (March 21) as he embarked on his US journey.
A statement released by his office said: “No individual is allowed to make oneself a judge and use violence to punish others in degrading manners.” The imam of a mosque in central Kabul, however, defended the lynching. His sermon broadcast on loudspeaker told worshippers that the crowd had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs. “I am warning the government not to arrest those who did this, because it will mean an uprising,” said the cleric at the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque. The police announced they had arrested 21 people, including eight policemen. “I will question the police... we have started our inquiry. Even If I get killed, I won't let any of her perpetrators get away with it,” said General Zahir, head of criminal investigation at the Afghan interior ministry.