By Hannah Schultz, News Editor
Last week, 27-year-old Farkhunda was lynched in broad daylight by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan, while a group of policemen failed to stop the attack. Protestors took to the streets to demand the government hold the guilty responsible, wearing gruesome masks of Farkhunda’s bloodied face. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the killing as “heinous” and ordered a commission to investigate it fully. At least twenty-six people have been arrested in connection with the brutal event.
The attack came after Farkhunda accused a mullah of selling false tawiz to the women at the Shah-e-Do Shamshera Mosque in the city center. Tawiz are pieces of paper containing verses of the Quran which are sometimes worn as pendants to ward off evil and bring the wearer good luck. According to her father, Farkhunda had complained about women being encouraged to waste money on the amulets in the past.
The mullah accused Farkhunda of burning the Quran, at which point a crowd overheard and dragged her into the street. The policeman who saw the incident, Sayed Habid Shah, told the BBC Farkhunda denied setting the Quran on fire. “She said I am a Muslim and Muslims do not burn the Quran,” he said. “As more people gathered, the police were trying to push them away, but it got out of control.”
Farkhunda was then beaten, hit by bats, stamped on and driven over. Her body was dragged by a car before being set on fire and thrown into the river.
“The continued increase in the number of cases of violence against women and girls in Afghanistan has become a source of major concern,” Elzira Sagynbaeva, the Country Representative for UN Women in Afghanistan, said in a press release for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, “and must not be tolerated. Afghan women’s rights to safety and security have to be ensured, and the survivors of violence supported and perpetrators brought to justice.”
Shukria, a woman visiting the shrine in Kabul on Monday, told the BBC that the attack was “not just an attack on Farkhunda, but on all Afghan women. They have killed us all.”
In addition to raising questions about the violent culture towards women in Afghanistan, this vicious attack also calls to question the efficacy of the Afghani police. So far, thirteen police officials have been suspended in connection with the incident.
“We’re very interested particularly to see what happens in terms of the investigation of the police behavior,” said Patricia Grossman, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, to CNN.
“That was, for us, one of the most troubling aspects of this case—that the police did not intervene adequately and properly to save her when there was an opportunity to do so.”
A spokesman for the interior ministry, Sediq Sediqi, said the father was right to say that the police could have done more to save Farkhunda. “We will have to work on our measures, on our teaching and training for our police across the country, and this incident will bring a lot of changes within us,” he said to the BBC.
Farkhunda’s funeral was held on Sunday. It was attended by thousands—government officials, ministers, journalists and civil society members, as well as grieving members of the Afghani public. A group of women bore her casket to the grave, taking on the usually male task as a symbol of the public outrage towards Farkhunda’s brutal treatment at the hands of men.
“Violence against women is rampant in Afghanistan,” said Grossman to CNN. “That’s the kind of thing we’d like to see people address beyond this particular case.”