The verdict for the 49 men charged with the murder of 27-year- old Farkhunda came yesterday, following a highly publicized and televised week-long trial and public outrage for violence against women in Afghanistan.
Farkhunda, who was an Islamic law student, accused a local Mullah of acting inappropriately. The Mullah then began to shout that Farkhunda was an infidel who had burned the Koran, she was also accused of being mentally ill – both accusations were later said to be false. A crowd of hundreds of men were incited to attack her, and they beat her to death, set fire to her body, and threw her body in a river.
Of the 49 men tried in this case, four were sentenced to death, and eight were sentenced to 16 years in prison. Nineteen police officers are facing charges and will be sentenced separately. The rest were not charged. The Mullah responsible for provoking the mob to attack Farkhunda was among those sentenced to death – the first Mullah in Afghanistan to be executed.
Activists who have been calling for justice for Farkhunda are celebrating the sentencing. “It’s making me hopeful and it’s making think that all the work that we did, all the protest that we did is finally reaching something,” said one woman who has been active in seeking justice, and who wished to remain anonymous.
Others felt the sentencing was too lenient. Omar Haidari, another activist, said the judge’s ruling was “totally unacceptable,” claiming the 18 men who were acquitted should not have gone free. “They were all part of the game and should be punished severely,” he said. “At least they should be sentenced to life in prison for what they have done.”
Farkhunda’s murder sent shockwaves through Afghanistan and the world, as videos of the mob attack went viral. She has been called a martyr among women’s rights and Islamic people alike who believe the woman was unjustly killed for speaking up for her beliefs. A group of all women carried Farkhunda’s coffin at her funeral, which breaks the tradition that has men carrying the coffin while women stay home to mourn.
Media Resources: Al Jazeera 5/6/15; NPR 5/6/15; NY Times 5/6/15; Feminist Newswire 4/6/15;