Authorities in Afghanistan say the initial probe into the brutal killing and burning of a woman by a mob for allegedly desecrating the Muslim holy book suggests the victim was wrongly accused. The incident, which took place in front of police, has outraged Afghan human rights activists who have vowed to protest until the government bring to justice those responsible.
Afghan officials and relatives have identified the victim as 27-year-old Farkhunda. She was buried in a Kabul graveyard Sunday at a funeral attended by hundreds of people who chanted “we want justice”.
Women’s rights activists carried Farkhunda’s coffin to her grave, an unusual move conservative Afghanistan has not witnessed before.
The victim was beaten to death by a mob of men in the Afghan capital this past Thursday. Farkhunda’s body was later then set on fire before it was thrown into the Kabul River. Mobile phone footage circulating on social media shows that police did nothing to prevent the fatal attack.
Afghan lawmaker Farkhunda Zahra Nadari spoke to reporters after attending the burial ceremony.
She criticized police officers at the scene for being “extremely incompetent, unprofessional and cruel." Nadari says if they were unable to control the mob they could have at least called for more help from other police in the capital.
President Ashraf Ghani swiftly condemned Furkhanda’s killing as “heinous attack” and ordered a wide-ranging probe.
Afghan authorities have since detained several men in connection with the assault. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi tells VOA action has also been taken against area police officers to broaden the investigation.
“The Afghan Ministry of Interior has suspended the jobs of 13 police officials who had the responsibility to make sure that they had measures (in place) to protect that woman, Furkhanda, who was killed by (the) mob and they will be asked questions on their conduct,” he said.
The attack on Farkhunda was prompted by a cleric’s accusations that she burned a copy of the holy Quran.
But Afghan media quoted her family as saying she had confronted the cleric about misleading the people on the pretext of religious beliefs by distributing amulets (tawiz in local language) to save them from evil and bring them good luck.
They say the cleric then accused Furkhanda of burning the Quran and called for the people to punish her for undermining the holy book. Some Afghan officials and religious leaders have tried to justify the violence.
But Kabul’s head of criminal investigation, General Mohammad Zahir, said an initial probe found no evidence to support allegations against Farkhunda.
The victim’s family has also rejected as unfounded reports she was mentally ill, saying the woman was about to complete her religious studies to become an Islamic teacher.
The United Nations and international human rights groups have strongly condemned the killing, saying the continued increase in attacks against women and girls in Afghanistan has become a source of major concern.