The death of a young Afghan woman causes outrage across the world, but was this a case of misogyny or cultural myopia, or both?
In March a young woman, aged 27 was on her way home and detoured into a shrine in Kabul. Queue the mob; of reportedly a thousand surrounding her, kicking her relentlessly. No words can prepare for what is graphically depicted on social media from the victory videos the men posted. She was dropped from a roof, run over by a car, stoned and finally burnt. All due to a preacher’s unfounded claims that she had burnt the Qur’an. Even her brother was involved in the onslaught.
After it was revealed that she had not burnt the Qur’an, public and religious officials retracted their statements approving the killing. Forty-nine men were held to a public, live broadcasted trial. Four, including the man who started the accusations and Farkhunda’s brother were sentenced to death. Police officers were given a year in jail due to the neglect to protect Farkhunda.
Sadly, only months later the death sentences were reduced to twenty years, Farkhunda’s brother was sentenced to 10 years as a minor. Most of the policemen were let out on bail, many were not charged due to lack of evidence. Although, there is hope that this may be revised.
Helena Malikyar, an Afghan historian and political analyst, talks about how Farkhunda would probably have survived for longer if she was a muscular man. It is not because of being a woman that she was voraciously killed. But because of, ‘the culture of violence, a variety of frustrations and post-traumatic problems, a qualitatively inadequate education system, an unchecked religious establishment and an extremely weak rule of law’.
Survivors of numerous conflicts and seeing death daily, these things have affected most Afghans personally. Malikyar further argues, that these men have had to be brutal and tough to survive. Therefore, the prevailing attitudes towards women and the general mindset of the population are the causes that have allowed such a nightmare to happen. Nonetheless, Ms Malikyar tries to remain optimistic by hoping that the work activists and campaigners do now will take seed in the next generation.
Afghan opinion blogs and reports say that this is a symbol of the oppression against women. The image of Afghan women carrying Farkunda’s coffin, unheard of in Afghan history, as well as the biggest women’s protest the country has seen, shows that this is now every Afghan woman’s campaign against the daily misogyny they each face.