Two recent incidents in Afghanistan help reveal what is at stake in the struggle taking place against extremists in that country. The first is the grisly public execution -- caught on video -- of a young Afghan woman accused of adultery. The second is a demonstration attended by dozens of women and men who took to the streets of Kabul on July 11 to protest the barbaric act.
The video shows a lone woman sitting on the ground shot repeatedly at close range to the cheers of a group of male onlookers. The slaying took place in Parwan province, about 100 kilometers from the capital. Afghan authorities say the Taliban was responsible for the execution. Roshna Khalid, spokeswoman for the governor of Parwan, told the Agence France Press that “within one hour they decided that she was guilty and sentenced her to death.”
The demonstration by women’s rights activists -- including men -- that took place in Kabul over the murder would have been impossible before 2001 when the Taliban was in power and severely restricted women’s mobility, activities, and fundamental freedoms. One of the participants in the rally, Afghan parliamentarian Shinkai Karokhail, told AFP that “the execution of the woman by the Taliban was a crime. ... the government must do everything to bring the culprits to justice.” Another 150 people demonstrated July 14 in Parwan province, reiterating the demands to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the murder of the young woman “disgusting and unforgivable,” and promised that security forces would spare no effort in arresting and punishing the perpetrators. A manhunt for those responsible is underway.
U.S. Marine General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, called the execution “an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty.”
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement condemning the public execution “in the strongest possible terms. . .The protection of women’s rights is critical around the world, but especially in Afghanistan, where such rights were ignored, attacked and eroded under Taliban rule. U.S. policy is firmly committed to ensuring women in Afghanistan will not stand alone, even after international forces leave.”
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the recent Afghanistan donors’ conference in Tokyo, “The United States believes strongly that no nation can achieve sustainable peace, reconciliation, stability and economic growth if half the population is not empowered. . .and the United States will continue to stand strongly by the women of Afghanistan.