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Death By Stoning In Afghanistan

Twenty-nine-year-old Amina was publicly stoned to death near Faizabad, the capital of the northern Afghanistan province of Badakshan. Accused of adultery by her husband, she was reportedly dragged from her parents' house and stoned by her husband and local officials. Amina had reportedly asked her husband, who had been away in Iran for five years, for a separation on the grounds that he could not support her.

Provincial police chief Shah Jahan Noori said the authorities are investigating the attack. Provincial deputy governor Haji Shamsul-Rehman said that even if the woman had committed adultery, she was entitled to a trial and the presentation of witnesses in a regular court, and should not have been killed on the ruling of a local Muslim cleric. In a statement, the human rights group Amnesty International said, "the Afghan government has the responsibility of protecting women from violence, committed not only by the state but also by private individuals and groups."

Afghanistan's new constitution provides for equal rights for men and women. But violence, including beatings, rapes, trafficking, and kidnappings of women, continues.

President Hamid Karzai recently urged Islamic clerics to take a stand against violence towards women. Meeting with religious leaders in Kabul, Mr. Karzai pointed to the example of Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh. He recently declared forced marriages to be un-Islamic and called for perpetrators to be jailed. "I hope that the noble Afghan Ulema issues a similar fatwa," said Mr. Karzai, "to end the oppression of Afghan women and girls."

In Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf has signed a law calling for action to stop so-called honor killings of women by male relatives. A criminal law amendment enacted in January increases penalties for the perpetrators of these crimes and restricts the rights of family members to pardon the killers.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. supports those who stand up for the rights of women:

"In all that lies ahead, our nation will continue to clarify for other nations the moral choice between oppression and freedom."

"America's belief in human dignity and human rights," said Ms. Rice, "will guide our policy."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.