Afghanistan: Adultery Execution Video Sparks Outrage

In early July, an Afghan woman was executed publicly in a small village in the Parwan province, about an hour's drive from the capital Kabul. The 22-year-old woman was reportedly killed after two local Taliban strongmen – both claiming that they had had some kind of relationship with her – accused her of adultery. An amateur video [Warning: Graphic] of the execution, obtained by Reuters, shows an old turban-clad man reciting verses from the Koran and declaring: “We cannot forgive her, God tells us to finish her. Juma Khan, her husband, has the right to kill her.” The burqa-clad woman is then shot dead at a point-blank range, while some 150 bearded men present at the execution cheer her death and shout, “God is great,” “Long live mujahideen” [a term the Taliban call themselves].

Najiba, a 22-year-old Afghan woman, is executed by her husband. Screenshot from video, ‘Afghanistan execution sparks outrage’, uploaded July 9, 2012, by Youtube user CNN.

About 150 men were present at the execution, cheering the woman's death. Screenshot from video, ‘Afghanistan execution sparks outrage’, uploaded July 9, 2012, by Youtube user CNN.

Afghan government officials have blamed the Taliban for the execution. When the fundamentalist movement was in power from 1996-2001, public executions of adulterers were common in the country. The Taliban, however, has denied its involvement in the killing.

The woman's execution has sparked an international outcry. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has condemned the killing as “un-Islamic and inhuman,” and ordered police to find the culprits and bring them to justice. Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan female parliamentarian, said after watching the video:

After 10 years (of foreign intervention), and only a few kilometres from Kabul… how could this happen in front of all these people? It is really very much a sharp turn, and a huge backward (step).

Frogh Wazhma, an Afghan gender and development specialist and human rights activist, tweeted [fa] on July 9:

وقت اینست که ما زنان نیز به تهدیدی مسلحانه تبدیل شویم.حادثه پروان نشانه دیگر از منافقت اجتماعی ماست -کسی در آن جمع در مقابل ظلم ایستاده نشد

It is time for us, women, to become an armed threat. Parwan incident is another symptom of our social hypocrisy. No one [witnesses of the incident] stood up against injustice.

The outrage caused by the execution has put spotlight on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. On Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Dilawar Sherzai explains:

The Afghan social structure has been vehemently dominated by religious extremism and tribal nepotism. Though these factors have affected almost everyone, women have been intensely influenced as they belong to the weaker strata of the society. Most of the self-designed religious doctrines and tribal norms are against the women and discriminate their basic rights. Unfortunately, these norms and doctrines have even gone to the extent of violence and have tortured women physically – mostly in the public. They, in the name of dignity of women, have in fact degraded them. The concept of so-called tribal honor and dignity has not been able to provide safety and respect to Afghan women.

Outside Afghanistan, the video angered many people. Laurent Joncas, a Canadian, wrote in a letter to the National Post on July 10:

I am a 65-year-old man and I cried like a baby when I read about the execution of a young woman in Afghanistan. The thought of her lonely and fearful death will haunt me forever. I am sad that the world could do nothing for her. I’m not sure that giving $250-million dollars in aid to Afghanistan will stop this. My wish is that Muslims from around the world cry out for justice against the Taliban. What is just is that this young women is in now in Heaven and that her murderers will suffer eternity in Hell, along with the 150 or so who men who cheered this on. How is it possible that this was the will of Allah, as he is all merciful, and loving?

The video of the killing has also led dozens of Afghan women and some men to take to the streets of Kabul on July 11. Condemning the execution and calling on the government to do more to protect women's rights in the country, the protesters also chanted “Death to the men who killed our sister!”

Afghan women protest in Kabul after the execution. Image by Frogh Wazhma, used with permission.

The protest was led by Mumtaz Bibi, a 16-year-old Afghan woman who had survived a callous acid attack. She marched alongside Sahar Gul, a 15-year-old woman whose case caused worldwide outrage after had been rescued from her husband and his relatives who starved and tortured the girl to force her to enter into prostitution. Sima Samar, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, has also joined the protest in Kabul.

Sahar Gul and Mumtaz Bibi among the protesters in Kabul. Image by Courtney Body, used with permission.

Some people have used the execution as an opportunity to criticize Western nations for their inability to solve Afghanistan's many problems despite intervening in the country in 2001. Euronews correspondent Mustafa Bag tweeted on July 12:

Public execution of an Afghan woman shows how little the civilized Europe has achieved during 10 years of the occupation of Afghanistan. 



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