Dozens of men and women took to the streets of Kabul yesterday to protest the recent public slaying of an Afghan woman accused of adultery whose brutal, -execution-style killing was captured on video.
The footage, which surfaced recently, shows the woman being shot multiple times about 10 days ago in Parwan Province, north of the Afghan capital. The gunman was encouraged by people who stood nearby, smiling and cheering.
Police in Parwan said the Taliban were behind the killing, but the insurgents have denied they ordered or carried out the slaying.
The death of the unidentified woman, who was said to be in her 20s, set off a storm of condemnation. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the US embassy, the top NATO military commander in Afghanistan and activist groups all denounced the killing.
It was a reminder that girls and women still suffer shocking abuse in Afghanistan, but the protest also indicated that people’s views on women’s rights here could be slowly changing.
The crowd of about 50 demonstrators carried large white sheets that said “International community: Where is the protection and justice for Afghan women?”
They marched from the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs to a traffic circle near a UN compound, and some shouted: “Death to those who did this act!”
Despite guaranteed rights and progressive new laws, the UN Development Program still ranks Afghanistan as one of the world’s worst countries when it comes to equal rights for women. Afghan advocates say attitudes have subtly shifted over the years, in part thanks to the dozens of women’s groups that have sprung up.
Still, ending abuse of women is a huge challenge in a patriarchal society where traditional practices include child marriage, giving girls away to settle debts or pay for their relatives’ crimes and so-called honor killings in which girls seen as disgracing their families are murdered by relatives.
Women activists worry that gains made in recent years could erode as the international presence in Afghanistan wanes and the government seeks to negotiate a settlement with the hardline Islamic Taliban insurgents.
The video surfaced just before donor nations met this weekend in Tokyo and pledged US$16 billion in aid for Afghanistan. The donors expressed strong concerns over how the money will be handled and also called on Kabul to improve human rights, especially women’s rights.
“We want from the government to follow the killing of the women in Afghanistan and hand over those responsible to face justice,” Afghan women’s rights activist Simi Samar said.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a NATO service member died yesterday in a roadside bombing in the south. NATO did not disclose any other information about the death.