The following piece about the lynching of a psychologically-disturbed woman by Amina Zia Massoud was published earlier this week by Khaama Press. This shameful incident illustrates the urgent need for Afghans to realise that real recovery after more than three and a half decades of war is not only about bringing peace to the country, but also respecting women and to accept religious tolerance which is what Islam is also supposed to be about.
Two days before Nowroz or the New Years celebration marked by Afghanistan and many other Central Asian countries, Kabul faced an unprecedented horror that left me shattered. There has only been a few times in my life that I have felt completely hopeless at the lack of humanity; March 19 2015 was one of those days. It didn’t help that I was alone for the first time, far away from my family in another country; but my sentiments were no match to that of the woman in my hometown, a woman born and raised in this world with so much hardship and easily taken away in one moment.
No language could possibly manifest my emotions as I saw the bloodied woman being stomped upon, hit with a stick, an iron rod, stoned, run over by a car and finally burnt to death by my own countrymen, at least hundreds of them. My Facebook and Twitter feed did not give me a chance to see the beautiful planted trees or the budding fragrant roses, the pictures of smiling children and white doves flying over the scenic mountains during the first days leading to spring. Instead it was of horror, of bystanders standing by and filming the incident on their phones and even participating in the gruesome attack.
Her name was Farkhunda, she was 27 years old and had allegedly burnt the Holy Quran, a crime punishable by Afghan law. Yet, Farkhunda was mentally ill, according to her doctor and her parents, Farkhunda had been mentally ill since her teenage years.
“We tried everything, got her medication, took her to many mullah’s but with no luck,” said her mother at the 6pm nightly news, completely unaware that her child had been murdered by an angry mob on the accusation of blasphemy.
A mob of hundreds of men who shamelessly beat one woman, no consideration was given to her screaming and her wailing, the blood protruding from her flesh, the sounds of her bones cracking, her young life being taken away. In broad daylight, in the middle of Kabul, under the shadow of the Shah-do-Shamsher mosque, a house of God, one woman was beaten and tortured to death by hundreds of men proclaiming to be honouring their Creator, yet they were the most honourless men. The haunting thought of one woman being beaten to death by hundreds of men replays in my mind.
Farkhunda didn’t commit blasphemy, but wickedness was committed by those who took the place of the Judge in their own human form, foolishly believing that her death was their ticket to paradise. Farkhunda wasn’t ill, sick were those men who believed that beating a helpless woman to death was morally right and the woman who boasted in front of the cameras that she had ‘kicked the girl twice’ before leaving.
News eventually came out that Farkhunda had not burnt the holy book and instead it was an amulet (taawiz) given to her by a religious leader of the mosque itself to ‘ward of evil’ and help with her illness, Farkhunda had reached out to the mosque for help.
Kabul’s incident was disheartening, it was unlawful, it was savagery and while I have faith that the President will take action against the perpetrators I have come to the realization that I must never again fear the growing threat of ISIS in my home country, a threat that has captured the media for the past months, nor the threat of the Taliban and their waning power. My only fear should be of the men and women who claim to hold the sanctity of my religion and culture in my own neighbourhood, who are not funded by foreign governments or born out of an illegal invasion, yet in the blink of an eye they are ready to violently murder another fellow human being.
In many ways I feel sympathy for them, their heedlessness to the value of another life is painful, they are physically well yet they are living life blind. I wonder if one of those men slept well last night? Did one of them wake up truly believing they served their country or their God on this beautiful yet sorrowful spring day? Or the woman who proudly admitted to abuse, do the thoughts of Farkhunda’s mourning mother make her feel the slightest pain or remorse?
If only one brave man shielded her, if only one man wasn’t afraid, if only one man raised his voice; Kabul needed one man to save its honour.