In March this year, a furious mob of men attacked 27-year-old Farkhunda Malikzada at a mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul. She had been accused of burning the Koran – an offence for which, it turned out, she was not guilty. Farkhunda was beaten, thrown off a roof, stamped on, run over with a car, and finally, set on fire. The sickening attack was recorded in detail on mobile phones by the many people who stood and watched. Nearby police did not intervene to prevent her death. In this programme, which some listeners may find disturbing, the BBC’s Zarghuna Kargar, herself an Afghan woman, tells Farkhunda’s story.
As Kargar explains, the murder was initially endorsed by some Afghans, including a number of officials and clergy. And those who took part in it gleefully uploaded footage of the attack to social media. Yet, after failing to stop the killing, the police did act to apprehend some of the culprits, and a trial ensued which led to some swift and heavy punishments – including four death sentences.
Moreover, Farkhunda’s funeral became a rallying point for women – and some men – demanding an end to violence against women. Significantly, women carried the coffin – a rarity in this conservative society. Huge demonstrations followed, in which the crowds chanted “We are all Farkhunda”. Even so, questions remain as to whether even the atrocity of Farkhunda’s lynching will lead to any long term improvement for women in Afghanistan. New laws to protect them have not been forthcoming. And, the attitudes of many Afghan men remain deeply hostile to reform. Meanwhile, the death sentences against four people involved in the attack have since been quashed. And, Farkhunda’s family now live in fear of attack themselves.
(Photo: Afghan protesters hold banners to protest against the killing of Afghan woman Farkhunda. Credit: AFP)