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In Kabul, Hundreds Demand Justice for Brutal Murder of 27 Year Old Woman Falsely Accused of Burning Koran

( [email protected] ) Mar 23, 2015 11:35 AM EDT
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Monday to demand justice for the brutal murder of 28 year old Farkhunda, who was killed by a mob after she was falsely accused of burning a Koran.
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Hundreds of protesters gathered in Kabul on Monday to demand justice for a young woman who was killed by a Muslim mob after she was falsely accused of burning a Koran.

Protesters who gathered near the Shah Doshamshera mosque demanded the government prosecute all those responsible for the death of Farkhunda, a 27 year old religious scholar who was brutally beaten with sticks and stones following an argument with a local fortune teller, who accused her of burning a koran. She was then pushed from a roof, run over by a car, and set alight before her body was dragged 300 metres along the road in front of the mosque and thrown in the Kabul river, reports the AFP.

According to Farkhunda's mother, the young woman had suffered from mental illness for most of her life, and had been actively seeking treatment for her condition.

Many of the demonstrators on Monday wore masks of Farkhunda's beaten face, and carried banners accusing the government of breaking promises to end corruption and bring rule of law to Afghanistan.

"This is a crime against this family, a crime against a sister and a crime against humanity," said Bari Salam, a human rights activist, following Farkhunda's funeral service, which was attended by several hundred.

"The accusation against her is completely invalid. Farkhunda was a religious girl, she was not involved [in burning the Koran], she was innocent," said interior minister Noorulhaq Ulumi.

"It is very painful that we were not able to protect a pious young person. We hope this will not be repeated again."

So far, police have arrested 26 people in relation to the incident, and suspended 13 policemen, including the police chief responsible for the area, who reportedly stood by and did nothing to stop the attack. Additionally, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called the killing of Farkhunda a "heinous attack," and has ordered an investigation.

While Farkhunda's murder is the first kind in Afghanistan; desecration of the Koran, or "blasphemy," is punishable by death or life imprisonment under neighboring Pakistan's anti-blasphemy law.

In November, a Muslim mob in Pakistan beat a Christian couple to death and threw their bodies into a brick kiln for allegedly ripping pages from a Koran. It was later discovered that the pair was actually murdered because their employer was angry at the couple, who he claimed owed him money.

Less than a month earlier, a Pakistani court upheld the death penalty for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010  after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.

According to Human Rights Watch's Phelim Kine, Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often used to target religious minorities and are "all too often manipulated to seek personal disputes."

David Griffiths, Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director, added that blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal vendettas, both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims, while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence.

"Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards," he said.

On Friday, the United Nations issued a statement condemning Farkhunda's murder "in the strongest terms."

"We are encouraged by initial reports of the arrest of several suspects, but call on the authorities to investigate this incident fully and bring to justice all persons who actively participated in the killing, or aided and abetted it," said Elzira Sagynbaeva, the representative in Afghanistan for UN Women. She said the rise in cases of violence against women and girls in Afghanistan had become a "major concern" and must not be tolerated.