Sunday, November 8, 2015

Justice for Rokhshana

- Dozens of Afghan activists staged a protest in Kabul Friday to call for justice for a young woman stoned to death by militants after being accused of adultery in central Ghor province.

The woman, identified by local officials as Rokhsana and believed to be aged between 19 and 21, had been forced to marry and was caught trying eloping with another man.

She was placed in a hole in the ground as turbaned men gathered around and hurled stones at her with chilling nonchalance, footage released this week by broadcaster Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty showed.

On Wednesday, the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani ordered a probe into the stoning in a Taliban-controlled area just outside Firozkoh, the capital of Ghor. 

The incident, which local authorities believe took place more than a week ago, made international headlines with the footage going viral on social media, sparking strong criticism from within Afghanistan.

"We have come here to awaken the conscience of the Afghan people," Farahnaz Froutan, a female journalist, said at the protest in Kabul Friday. 

"Today this happened to Rokhsana, tomorrow it will happen to you. The question here is, why we are not standing against such crime and not raising our voice," she added.

Another protester, Asaar Hakimi, said negligence by the Afghan government in the death of another woman earlier this year had led to the stoning of Rokhsana.

In March a woman named Farkhunda was savagely beaten and set ablaze in central Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a Koran in an incident that triggered protests around the country and drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women.

"If the government had seriously punished the murderers of Farkhunda, this incident would have not happened," Hakimi told AFP.

Demonstrators, including men and women, chanted slogans such as "Death to the Taliban! Death to criminals! Death to enemies of Afghanistan!" at the protest.

The brutal punishment meted out to Rokhsana highlighted the endemic violence against women in Afghan society, despite reforms since the hardline Taliban regime fell in 2001.

In September, just months after the death of Farkhunda, a video from Ghor appeared to show a woman -- covered head to toe in a veil and huddled on the ground -- receiving lashes from a turbaned elder in front of a crowd of male spectators.

The flogging came after a local court found her guilty of having sex outside marriage with a man, who was similarly punished.

Justice for Rokhshana, No to Killing of Afghan Women!

Killing of Afghan women, under any circumstance, is a crime. And perpetrators will be answerable in the court of law!!!
We condemn with highest indignation the killing of Rokhshana. She is a 19-year old Afghan woman from Firoz Koh of Ghor province who was stoned to death by Taliban on 25th October 2015. She was shot for escaping from home due to cruelty and violence against her. This act is barbaric, murderous, unlawful and can never be justified. Taliban cannot continue its barbaric treatment of women. We call for capital punishment to the perpetrators of this criminality against women. Rokhshana’s fiancee, a 23-year-old man named Mohammad Gul, was reportedly lashed by Taliban. The couple allegedly had fled from their families in a bid to find a place to be married.
This incident, like the many recent killings of Afghan women, reflects the Taliban’s lack of understanding that Afghanistan is already under the rule of law. In our new society, the killings of women that used to happen during the days of the Taliban already constitute a major crime that is meted with strong punishment. Communities should support the voice of women and condemn such assault to democracy.
Killings of women like this is also an indication that people are confused about the peace process of government that seeks to bring back the Taliban into the mainstream of national life. People should understand that the return of the Taliban under the peace process is subject to their submission to the rule of law and democracy. It does not mean reverting to the tyranny, despotism and lawlessness of the past. It does not mean that anyone can do barbaric treatment of women again. The Constitution declares that women are equal to men in rights and no Afghan citizen can change this fact!
We urge President Ghani and other senior officials of government to run a year- long ‘infomercial’ which will deliver the message that we are now living under the rule of law and extrajudicial trials of women by Taliban, individuals and communities will be prosecuted. The government should also continuously communicate to the people, especially in the rural areas, that their Taliban behavior and ways of dispensing justice have been outlawed and will never be condoned by the State. It is the duty of the government to ensure that its laws are understood by the people. Unless this is clear to Afghan citizens, women will continue to suffer from the ignorance of the law by self-proclaimed guardians of morality. Likewise, we hold the government accountable for all the adverse implications of its unholy alliance with Taliban in the name of the peace process.

We never support the return of the Taliban without making them answerable for their crimes against women. Peace without justice is not peace.We call upon the international community, defenders of human rights, and champions of democracy, to help us demand justice for Rokhshana and all the Afghan women who were helplessly assaulted and/or killed. Unless justice is served, half of our population will live in terror under the impunity of perpetrators and anti-human rights elements. It is worth to mention that violence against afghan women is increased by 34% and we express our deep concern on this.

By Dr. Massouda Jalal Founding Chairperson of Jalal Foundation and Former Minister of Women, Afghanistan

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