Mob Rips Apart Afghan Woman Falsely Accused of Burning Koran

AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File
AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File

A mob at a Muslim shrine in central Kabul killed an Afghan woman who was falsely accused of burning the Koran, showing that Afghanistan has not changed much despite more than 14 years of U.S.-led engagement.

Since 2003, the United States alone has spent more than $1 billion in American taxpayer funds on programs to develop the rule of law in Afghanistan, including efforts to improve a judicial system that incorporates Islamic Sharia law and legal protections for women, according a watchdog agency appointed by Congress—the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Meanwhile, European countries have reportedly devoted tens of millions more.

Nevertheless, the New York Times (NYT) reports that justice has been flawed after an Afghan mob savagely killed Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old aspiring student of Islam, in March.

“At first, the trial and convictions that followed seemed a victory in the long struggle to give Afghan women their due in a court of law. But a deeper look suggests otherwise. The fortuneteller who several investigators believe set the events in motion was found not guilty on appeal,” notes the Times. “The shrine’s custodian, who concocted the false charge of Quran burning and incited the mob, had his death sentence commuted.”

“Police officers who failed to send help and others who stood by received slaps on the wrist, at most. Some attackers identifiable in the videos avoided capture altogether. Afghan lawyers and human rights advocates agree that most of the accused did not receive fair trials,” it adds. “Farkhunda’s family, fearing reprisals and worried that the killers would not be held accountable, fled the country.”


The Times points out that the young Afghan woman’s “death and the legal system’s response call into question more than a decade of Western efforts in Afghanistan to instill a rule of law and improve the status of women.”

However, adds the report, like many other Western nation-building attempts in Afghanistan, the efforts have fell flat.

“Afghan society has resisted more than 150 years of such endeavors by outsiders, from the British to the Russians to the Americans,” reports NYT. “This remains a country where ties of kinship and clan trump justice, and where the money brought by the West has made corruption into a way of life. The rule-of-law programs were often designed in ignorance of Afghan legal norms, international and Afghan lawyers say. And Western efforts to lift women’s legal status provoked fierce resentment from powerful religious figures and many ordinary Afghans.”

“Yet Afghan women most need the legal system to defend them: They are largely powerless without the support of male family members, and it is usually family members who abuse them,” adds the report.

Farkhunda was killed in March as she tried to escape the mob of men that wanted to kill her. Two Afghan police officers tried to help her by pulling her onto the roof of a low shed, away from the angry mob.

“But then the enraged men below her picked up poles and planks of wood, and hit at her until she lost her grip and tumbled down,” reported the Times. “Her face bloodied, she struggled to stand. Holding her hands to her hair, she looked horrified to find that her attackers had yanked off her black hijab as she fell. The mob closed in, kicking and jumping on her slight frame.”

According to English subtitles provided by NYT of cellphone video clips showing her death, the young vicim, echoing the words of the her assailants, yelled, “Allahu akbar!”

Her attackers, which reportedly included worshippers, shouted, “The Americans sent her… Beat her… Long live Islam!”

It remains uncertain when exactly Farkhunda was killed.

“The tormented final hours of Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old aspiring student of Islam who was accused of burning a Quran in a Muslim shrine, shocked Afghans across the country. That is because many of her killers filmed one another beating her and posted clips of her broken body on social media,” notes the Times. “Hundreds of other men watched, holding their phones aloft to try to get a glimpse of the violence, but never making a move to intervene. Those standing by included several police officers.”

“Unlike so many abuses against Afghan women that unfold in private, this killing in March prompted a national outcry,” it adds. “For Farkhunda had not burned a Quran. Instead, an investigation found, she had confronted men who were themselves dishonoring the shrine by trafficking in amulets and, more clandestinely, Viagra and condoms.”


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