Justice for Farkhunda. But will it happen in Afghanistan?

After the lynching of innocent woman by mob in Kabul there is a hashtag #JusticeforFarkhunda, there are protests and the Afghan government said it will have to work on measures, and this incident will bring a lot of changes. So from your point of view what changes are necessary to prevent similar violence in the future and how optimistic or pessimistic are you about implementing any changes that could make a difference? Read few comments.

Jorrit KammingaVisiting Fellow, Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael

This incident again shows the urgent need for two structural changes: First, much more investment by the government and international community in public awareness raising about the need to protect women from violence and protect women’s rights in general, especially among the more conservative sectors of Afghan society. While some Afghans indeed protest, many others still keep silent as Afghanistan is still a very conservative country. And, second, a strong government that is finally willing to actually defend the women’s rights and women empowerment they say they stand for. Both president Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah were very outspoken and clear at the London Conference on Afghanistan at the end of last year that they would stand up to defend women. But when it comes to implementing effective laws (or even getting them through parliament) to better protect women, the Afghan government still has a very poor track record. The 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women is a sad reminder of that.

Hameed HakimiAssociate Researcher, Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs)

I am sending you the translation of the resolution (demands-list) that was read out by the civil society and organisers’ representatives during the protest today that took place in front of the Afghan Supreme Court.

  1. The original instigators behind this catastrophe must be openly and immediately prosecuted. In particular those instigators of the adjacent shrine, the mullah who writes the verses for the charms, and those perpetrators who murdered Farkhonda, must all be prosecuted.
  2. Every person who took part in the murder of Farkhonda, and who has taken evidentiary interest from the background, must, one by one, be identified and at the same time openly prosecuted.
  3. Every person who is guilty of participating in this crime and who supported those who showed no remorse – including the instigators, the accusers, and those who justified it – must with the help of media footage be identified and brought before a court.
  4. Local security forces who neglected their duties and who were obviously lacking the capacity and willingness to prevent this crime must face court and must be punished.
  5. The Kabul Police Chief must be immediately dismissed from his post.
  6. The Head of District 2 Police Station (where the murder took place) must be punished, after first being dismissed from his post.
  7. We demand that the Government in an immediate and mandatory manner search all of the shops of those who write charm verses, and those of all the magicians, fortunetellers and superstitious demagogues, in order to uphold the law.
  8. We demand that the Government rename the road (where she was murdered) ‘Farkhonda’s Road’ and erect a memorial in her name.
  9. The Government must punish all of those perpetrators who carry out summary punishment seriously and legally and prevent the carrying out of summary judgments and punishments in the country.
  10. We are thankful to those religious leaders who have responded to martyr Farkhunda’s murder case lawfully, responsibly and respectfully. We demand from the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs – as the body responsible – to act immediately to prevent promotion of violence and intolerance through places of worship in the name of religion.
  11. Once again we share our sympathy and show our empathy with the family of martyr Farkhunda. We are committed that until the perpetrators and murderers of Farkhunda are not tried, punished and our demands are not met, we will not stop.
This is a comprehensive list as you can see, but in terms of optimism for change I think that will take long. Particularly in rural areas, the change will be much harder to bring about both due to far higher levels of insecurity (Taliban’s evident presence) but also lack of literacy and prevalence of traditions/cultures in local communities.
Being a Londoner but living in Kabul for almost a year now, I certainly felt a genuine sense of remorse all across Kabul among every section of the society including taxi drivers, labourers and shop keepers whom I have spoken to. However, the general sense is that the government is too corrupt, and too busy with internal quarrels of power sharing, to bring about lasting change with regards to eradicating violence against women. The source of optimism is a seriously genuine movement by the public to demonstrate their outrage/demand justice, but in my view because of the rampant corruption, nepotism and weak governance (in particular with inauguration of the new government) confidence in the justice and political system is badly low! The best scenario: government will prosecute and maybe execute those involved in Farkhunda’s murder – but will it clamp down on the fortune-tellers and superstitious ‘clinics’  of traditional mullahs? I don’t think so! I also expect some exploitation of Farkhunda’s murder case for political point-scoring by all parties including by ultra conservative clerics and extreme ‘liberals’ who would take up the opportunity to bash religiosity in Afghan society.

 Abdulaziz Sachedina, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, Visiting Professor, UNESCO Chair of Inter-religious Dialogue Studies, University of Kufa, Najaf

I am not very optimistic about the situation women are faced with. There is a need for overhaul of the culture of male domination in all fields of social and familial life. That requires, not cosmetic changes; it requires cultural institutions to change and accommodate the ever-growing role of women in public life. Afghanistan is still behind in terms of creating responsive institutions and educations for the public to change their attitudes towards women. At this point, the mute issue is religious and in this particular case there is no evidence for any violation of the sanctity of the Qur’an. When will this mob start acting on the Qur’an, rather than worshiping it as a holy artifact for which they are willing to go to the extremes without ever thinking if the Qur’an allows them to act so horrendously.

Ryan Evans, Editor-in-Chief War on the Rocks, Ph.D. Student, King’s College London War Studies Department

The real problem is violence against women is deeply embedded in Afghan culture. One not even look beyond the reaction of the Afghan government. They condemned the mob attack on the basis of the victim’s innocence. They condemned it because she did not burn the Quran. Well what if she did? Should a woman still get beaten and burned to death by a rabid mob? This is not going to change anytime soon – probably not in my lifetime. Afghanistan has a long way to go before its various cultures allow for the emancipation of women and true rule-of-law.

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