Afghans Protest Death of Woman Falsely Accused of Burning Koran

AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini
AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini

Massive protests broke out in Afghanistan after a woman was wrongly killed for burning the Koran. The protesters demanded those responsible be prosecuted for the murder.

On March 19, Farkhunda, 27, argued with a mullah [Muslim trained in religious law and doctrine] when she saw him selling charms outside of the Shah-e-Doshamshera shrine in Kabul. She claimed the charms “promoted superstition.” The mullah retaliated by claiming Farkhunda burned a Koran. People around the shrine overheard the man and attacked Karkhunda.

The mob “beat, stoned, and ran over” Farkhunda. After she died, they threw her body “into a river and set ablaze in the presence of policemen.”

Authorities did not find any evidence that Farkhunda burned a Koran. Mohammad Fariz Afzali, the head of Kabul’s criminal investigation, claimed the woman “was mentally ill,” and her family supported the suggestion. But one of Farkunda’s neighbors said the woman “was a graduate student in religious studies preparing to become a teacher.” The police fired their spokesman, Hashmatullah Stanekzai, after he “praised the murder on Facebook.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani organized “a commission to probe the killing.” The Ulema, clerics and teachers of Muslim law, agreed with Farkhunda’s protest against the mullah about the charms.

The public buried Farkhunda on Sunday. Tradition says only men can be pallbearers, but the people broke it and assembled all-female pallbearers dressed in black. Men even formed a protective circle around the coffin to protect the women pallbearers.

Over 3,000 people participated in the protest. Some women painted their faces red and others carried photos of Farkhunda’s dead body. The people screamed, “Justice for Farkhunda!” and “Death to the killers!”

“It was one of the most brutal actions in the history of humanity… and at the same time it was very close to the palace, it was very close to the police officers but unfortunately there were hundreds of people watching her being killed and taking her movie but nobody reacted to that,” said protester Najla Habibyaar.

Authorities arrested 28 people and suspended 13 police officers. Human rights groups around the world condemned the murder.

“The brutal murder of a vulnerable woman by a mob on Kabul’s streets might have been stopped if the police had done their job,” said Patricia Gossman of Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to prosecute those involved in this terrible crime and take action against any police officers who let the mob have its way.”


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