Afghanistan :A Tragic Tale of Farkhunda, the girl lynched by an Angry mob
On 19 March, an angry mob beat Farkhunda—a 27-year woman to death, ran a car over her corpse, set her dead body on fire, and threw her charred remains onto the dry riverbed of the Kabul River. Ever since that day, her tragic tale has been hogging the headlines. She was lynched what rumors say is for burning a copy of the holy Qura’an. All it happened under the very nose of the government as the locality where the incident happened is surrounded by Justice Ministry, Interior Ministry, and the Presidential Palace is just a mile away. The incident took place in Shah-e-Du Shamshera Shrine. Inside the shrine, an epitaph affixed to the wall reveals that it is the tomb of Hazrat Lais Ibne Qais—the grandson of Hazrat Abbass, the uncle of the Prophet of Islam Hazrat Mohammad. His sobriquet Shah-e-Du Shamshera, literally means an ambidextrous gladiator king. The people of the locality say the place has lost the serenity it used to have, after the brutal incident.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
There is a thick cloud of rumors around the incident. Everyone—both civilians and government officials talk of speculations. The interior minister, Noor-ul-Haq Uloomi, says Farkhunda was innocent. According to him, she went to the shrine and challenged the practice of faith healing and tawiz-naweesi (amulet writing). When the amulet writers saw that their business was being challenged by a woman perhaps they clamored that she burnt a copy of the Qura’an, leading to the tragic incident. Shahla Farid, one of the members of the fact-finding commission who has been appointed by President Ashraf Ghani also shared the same account. Talking to The Oslo Times (TOT) Shahla said that they have finished their investigation. The report was submitted to the President Office on Wednesday April 01. She too stated that Farkhunda opposed the practice of amulet writing.
President Ashraf Ghani before leaving for the United States had assigned a fact finding committee, to look into the incident. The probe team is comprised of prominent political leaders and religious scholars including Fauzia Kofi, a member of the Parliament and a prominent human rights activist, Khpalwak Safi, Mujib Rahman Khilwatgar, Maulavi Mohammad Omar Farooqi, Shahla Farid, Najibullah Azizi, Mehbooba Saraj, Mohammad Hussein Mohaqiqzada, and Shamsullah Ahmadzai. The panel is led by Maulavi Mohi-u-Din Baloch, a religious scholar. He said the findings proved Farkhunda didn’t burn the copy of the Qura’an. The probe team submitted its report to the President, yesterday.
Her family hails from Kapisa province, which is just two hour’s drive from Kabul. Farkhunda has seven sisters and two brothers. Farkhunda was fifth. According to, Amina Akbari, a member of ‘Omid-e-Khatoon Organization’ she had spoken to Farkhunda’s mother when she visited the bereaved family while leading a condolence delegation. “From what Farkhunda’s mother told me, Farkhunda had asked her father for money, before she left for her sister’s home.” She had supposedly told her sister that she was going to visit the nearby shrine to condemn what she called bida’a (heresy). “Her sister disapproved of her intention and told her that it was not her job to tell people what’s wrong and what’s right. But she defied her sister and went to the shrine, not knowing that it would be the last time she would ever oppose of such superstitious beliefs.
Farkhunda’s father had called her at noon to know where she was. “I also called her to know if she is coming for lunch. She told me that she is visiting a shrine and will soon be back. I also called her around 2pm. We called her again on 3pm but her mobile number was inaccessible. We didn’t know that she had landed in a tragic situation. An hour later we received a call about her gruesome death. We couldn’t believe that she was no more with us,” Farkhunda’s mother recalled.
Farkhunda did her matriculation from Bibi Sitara High School. She also studied at Ayesha Siddiqa Dar-ul-uloom. She also studied at the Ustad Rabbnai Education University. She loved learning Tajwid (reciting Qura’an with perfect dialect). “Farkhunda could recite Qura’an by heart. And, she was much punctual in praying five times a day”. In a Facebook video, Sardar Naeem—who was a presidential candidate in the 2014 presidential elections, was seen paying his condolence to Farkhunda’s family and telling her brother, Engineer Najibullah that he stands with them in this hour of grief and that they have his support. Naeem is also shown asking them what they want from the government. To this the grief sticken brother, Najibullah tells him that all they want is justice. They want peace in the country. He said that no individual should be allowed to take law in their hands. The government must be strong so that people will never dare to dare to commit crime so openly. “Farkhunda doesn’t belong just to our family rather she belonged to the entire Afghanistan. The judiciary should pursue her case under Sharia Law. Whatever Sharia says in such a case is our demand,” says Najeebullah.
HARSH PUNISHMENT SOUGHT:
Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive of the National Unity Government, condemned Farkhunda’s killing. He called it a heinous crime and assured that justice will be done. “The perpetrators will not escape”.
Interior Minister Noor-ul-Haq Uloomi, who too has visited the bereaved family, has called on the judicial institutions to sentence the perpetrators to the harshest possible punishment. He had briefed members of the internal security commission of the Parliament, in this regard, on Sunday.
He termed extreme ignorance as the culprit behind her killing. Uloomi strongly rejected the allegations leveled against Farkhunda. He also informed members of the Parliament about arrests. He said 28 civilians and 17 police personnel have been arrested. Uloomi, told the Parliament last Monday that she was innocent and all the allegations against her were baseless.
OUTRAGE BY WOMEN
The harrowing episode of the torture, bleeding and torching her corpse, was being filmed with cellphones by onlookers, including some policemen, who despite being there, did nothing to stop the culprits. Within no time the video went viral on social media, causing horror and outrage against the killing.
Farkhunda’s burial ceremony was held in the capital Kabul. Women, for the first time in the history of Afghanistan took the coffin of a woman to the graveyard and laid her charred-corpse to rest. It was a rare act of gender awareness where women challenged the dominance of men.
CONTROVERSY/CONSPIRACY IN THE OFFING
Farkhunda’s charred remains have been buried yet new stories around the mysterious circumstances she was killed in are still emerging. Conspiracy still rides the air. A number of the Parliamentarians have claimed that just a while before the incident, Farkhunda had called foreign embassies. Many government officials termed these allegations as extremely misguiding.
Meanwhile, tempers flared over what Keramuddin Rezazada, a member of the Parliament from western Herat, and Mohammad Alam Qarar, a member of the Parliament from eastern Laghman province, last Sunday said on the floor of the Parliament– that killing 30-40 people for one life is not sane. Rezazada argued that it was not her job to go and forbid others from transcribing amulets. Qarar, on-the-other-hand pointed out that though the nation has lost a daughter to ignorance, it cannot also bear witness to the deaths of others either,” this would be irresponsible”. Rezazada sought a thorough probe into the incident, because according to him there is just too much speculation going about which that hinders access to facts.
Fawzia Kofi, an MP and a member of the fact-finding team, said that Farkhunda’s phone calls should be heard because rumors about her contacts have been spreading contagiously.
Kofi’s teammate, Abdul Ahmad Durrani, slammed Farkhunda’s lynching. Nevertheless he said that anybody who sets the copy of Qura’an on fire will come across the same tragedy. “The copy of the Quraa’n has been torched. It shouldn’t be looked kindly on,” he said.
As the “Justice for Farkhunda Movement” is picking steam, at home and abroad, the Criminal Investigations, Department Chief at the Ministry of Interior, Gen. Zahir Zahir said that some bigwigs are trying to get the suspects out. He further informed that the interior ministry has already sent the files of 44 suspects (including 17 policemen) to the Attorney General’s Office. Zahir added now it’s up to the AGO on how it tackles the case. “However, until I am alive, I will not allow any outside intervention into the case. In case the big guns mount their pressure, I will definitely name these persons before President Ashraf Ghani,” he said.
Talking to TOT, Kabul’s police chief, Abdul Rahman Rahimi, said that many people—both civilians and policemen have been arrested. “Many of them have confessed their part in the killing, but despite this, we cannot make the information public as the case is with the AGO and many culprits are still walking around freely,” he said. However, spokesman for the Kabul Police Chief, Hashmat Stanakzai, through his Facebook post said that Farkhunda was an apostate. “She was trying to get a foreign citizenship for which she did it”, he wrote. Yet, he posted an apology afterwards. The Ministry of Interior fired him for his post.
FACT FINDING COMMITTEE:
mob beating FakhundaPresident Ashraf Ghani before leaving for the United states assigned a fact finding committee, to look into the incident. The committee is led by Maulavi Mohi-u-Din Baloch, a prominent religious scholar. He submitted the probe report to the President on Wednesday. He said the findings proved Farkhunda didn’t burn the copy of the Qura’an. The members of the probe team is comprised of Fauzia Kofi, a member of the Parliament from northern Badakhshan province and a prominent human rights activists, Khpalwak Safi, Mujib Rahman Khilwatgar, Mualvi Mohammad Omar Farooqi, Shahla Farid, Najibullah Azizi, Mehbooba Saraj, Mohammad Hussein Mohaqiqzada, Shamsullah Ahmadzai. The members of the team are lawmakers, religious scholars and human rights activists.
The minister of interior Noor-ul-Haq Uloomi, hajj and religious minister Fai Mohammad Osmani were summoned by the Internal Security Committee of the ‘Wolesi Jirga—Lower House of the Parliament’ to brief the lawmakers on the issue. The two ministers and the fact-finding committee said their probes revealed there were no signs that a copy of the Qura’an had been burnt. According to them, all they found were few pieces of burnt paper littered around the crime scene with Persian words on it..
Uloomi stated that it was the conservative mindset that killed her. “We didn’t find any evidence that proves that she had called foreign embassies,” the minister told lawmakers. He further added that they will approach the National Directorate of Security to listen to her phone calls.
Osmani said no evidence of her involvement in burning the Qura’an was found. “If such evidence comes to our hands, we will never hesitate from sharing it with the public,” he said.
The Wolesi Jirga (the House of Representatives) also assigned five commissions to support the government in probing the killing of Farkhunda. On the directives of the Parliament, the commissions of internal security, legislative affairs, women’s affairs, legal and judicial affairs, and human rights will follow Farkhunda’s murder. Speaker of the Lower House, Raouf Ibrahimi, said that Farkhunda’s killing can be asserted as the most heinous crime to have ever been committed in the history of Afghanistan. Amid searing anger by protesters all over the country, some of the agitators have called on President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah to personally follow the case so that no one can dare to politicize it and appealed for the culprits to be punished in public. An MP from Kohistan, Iqbal Safi, sought resignation from the interior minister as the police department has failed to protect Farkhunda, even though the incident occurred in the nation’s capital. President Ashraf Ghani has stated that the police force has played an important role in the war against militants however they were not well-trained to cope with such incidents.
Till filing this report, court trials have not been initiated. And no presidential decree has been issued over punishment.
Bashir Azizi, the spokesman for AGO, told the media on Saturday that his office has been probing the case transparently. Now that people at home and abroad are condemning the incident vociferously very few talk about the legal jurisdiction. Even those sitting the judiciary are on the edge. Law of the land and the International Conventions signed by Afghanistan, oblige the government to punish all the people involved in Farkhunda’s killing.
However, some members of Parliament reject punishments for all. Those who oppose the parliamentarians who rebuked Farkhunda, say they should consult Afghanistan’s Penal Code Article 354 which clearly mentions that if you find someone being victimized it’s obligatory to help them. So, according to the Penal code everyone present at the scene during the murder has violated the law.
JUSTICE FOR FARKHUNDA MOVEMENT:
Now that the probe team appointed by President Ashraf Ghani has submitted its report to the government what specific legalities would be taken by the government to punish the perpetrators? Will the government give in to the pressure being built by some lawmakers who speak for those who killed Farkhunda or will it stand for the defense of human rights is a matter that will emerge soon in media.
Human rights activists unleashed a sweltering series of protests. Protest demos were held in front of the Supreme Court. Even a heavy downpour did not stop people from flooding the streets. Over 2,000 protestors had gathered around the court. Demonstrations were held in major cities across the country. The World also followed the suit. Protests were held in Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. In India also Afghan students held protests. In Europe and in the US people took to the streets to condemn the brutal killing of a hapless Afghan woman. The gruesome murder of Farkhunda could have been stalled if the police had done their job. Last Tuesday, Sima Samar, chairperson of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, told a panel in Georgetown US that she never witnessed such a crime against a woman. “It makes people numb to think how it happened within the capital,” she said. Samar said she was concerned that if they don’t manage the case properly, it might be used against women’s rights in Afghanistan. “As pressure mounts from national and international human rights organizations, the government needs to prosecute those involved in this crime and take action against any police officers who didn’t attempt to protect Farkhunda’s life”.
INFORMATION AND CULTURE MINISTRY UNDER FIRE:
Soon after the incident made way to media, Simin Ghazal Hassanzada, the deputy minister for Information and Culture, justified the act. She lauded those who killed Farkhunda, in a post on Facebook. It was only after severe criticism from the public and media that she recanted her words. She gave way in an interview with a private news channel where she said if the government wants to strip her of the slot she will abide by the decision. And the government dismissed her on Thursday April 02.
TOT couldn’t reach her for the comments despite many attempts.
VISIT TO THE SHRINE:
Shopkeepers, vendors, and pigeon keepers around the shrine are tight lipped because of the serious nature of the matter. Ask anybody and he will frown at you, making a gesture to move forward, giving you the impression that you will not find what you are in search for. This is why Farkhunda’s story has become highly enigmatic. What rumors say is Farkhunda detested amulet writing and snubbed the amulet-writer and faith healer Maulana. In reaction he may have alleged her for burning a copy of the Qura’an. Many days have elapsed since the horrendous incident, but many visitors prowl the area. It is strange enough to see women are rushing to the shrine for prayers and seeking solace. Farkhunda’s sacrifice didn’t change people’s mindset.People are still visiting the tomb to pray in pursuit of an end to their worldly and spiritual troubles, a practice condemned by Salafi school of thought of Muslims.
The khateeb (chief religious scholar of a madrassa or a mosque) Maulana Jamal-ud-Din Noori in Jamia Masjid Block-hi-Naw told TOT that whenever someone commits apostasy, under Islamic jurisprudence, you cannot punish them right away. “If a Muslim man commits apostasy he should be kept in solitary confinement for three days to give him enough time to realize his mistake and space to recant what he earlier said. Even if he still clings around his apostasy, his punishment is death. If a Muslim woman commits apostasy she also must be kept in solitary confinement for three days. If she doesn’t change her views, she must get life in jail. There is no death penalty for a woman for apostasy. “If they disavow apostasy there is no punishment for them,” the Maulana said.
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