“Afghan women carry the weight of mountains on our backs. These orphans, these widows, these burqas stained with blood – its embedded in our history. We are made of this. We are made of blood, sweat, and tears. The soil we come from is the home to roots that have given life to women of fire. Our homeland burns – but we collect the ashes.” – Fara Arefi
This past week, news about the mob killing of Farkhunda has shaken the Afghan community to its core. Farkhunda was beaten, thrown off a roof, run over by a car, and finally burned by dozens of men who claim she burned verses of the Qur’an. She was 27 and studying to be a religious teacher. She had taught over 30 children how to read the Qur’an.
An interior ministry official in charge of the case has stated that there was no evidence at all implying her guilt:
“Farkhunda was totally innocent,” Gen Mohammad Zahir told reporters. He said 13 people, including eight police officers, had been arrested.
I walked in to the living room to see my mother in tears, watching the video of her death. My sisters, aunts and cousins chattered about the incident all weekend during our Nowruz festivities. We are literally addicted to this story. Some are in shell-shock, some are outraged, and me? I just cry, randomly, throughout the day and when I least expect it. There are dozens of videos circulating on the web showing her brutal and violent death. The cowards behind the cameras should have been arrested as well.
In a situation like this, what else can you do but mourn? Why are Afghan women’s lives so disposable? What was their crime? This has weighed so heavily on me. It terrifies me. How can I ever go back home? What if something like that happens to me? It was so easy to twist what Farkhunda did. A misunderstanding led to a mob of misogynistic, blood-thirsty men, so willing, so ready, so HAPPY to take away a life. After viewing the video, I know what I saw. I saw the demise of our people. I saw the end of hope in Afghanistan.
I was raised with the belief that Afghan men were lion-hearted protectors. That women should be protected like a pearl within the oyster. That Pashtunwali, that our history as the Graveyard of Empires, that our valiant strength in fighting invaders gave our men compassion, and a sense of duty. Afghans carry a sense of pride and dignity for fiercely defending our homeland, but for what? To murder innocent women? To create a spectacle of death? To help feed stereotypes? I now see how false this narrative was.
Pashtunwali was completely broken in this incident. The code that brought all Afghans together was neglected. What happened to zan, zar and zameen? The tenets of fiercely protecting our women? Of seeking revenge and justice for those that hurt them? What happened to Nanawatay, or mercy?
Experts can debate for hours on why this happened. Sure, a lack of education, sure, no government accountability, sure, the American occupation. The failure to address a misogynistic society. A nation suffering from PTSD. A number of factors has led Afghanistan to broil at a breaking point where the people are now turning against one another. Helena Malikyar, an Afghan historian and political analyst writing for Al Jazeera stated,
“What killed Farkhunda was the failure in adequately addressing several fundamental issues, including the culture of violence, a variety of frustrations and post-traumatic problems, a qualitatively inadequate education system, an unchecked religious establishment and an extremely weak rule of law.”
And I completely agree with her statement. But it’s hard to care about all that right now. We just want justice for Farkhunda.
Farkhunda had a dream to become a hafiz, a religious scholar. She cherished and loved The Book. She memorized its verses, she applied them in her life. When someone passed, Farkhunda didn’t cry, she prayed. Al-Kitab was her life. Her dreams and aspirations were woven into the centuries old Arabic calligraphy on every page. The call to prayer brought her serenity. The mosque was her sanctuary. Her name meant “jubilant”. Who knew her name would become synonymous with the plight of Afghan women. Who knew Farkhunda’s unwavering love for Islam would be turned against her in her death. Who knew the mob-attack would begin outside of the mosque she loved. Who knew, in her last moments, she would be called a kafir (non-believer), instead of a shaheed (martyr). Farkhunda, our last shred of hope for our Watan. Farkhunda, who was beaten by men and buried by women. Farkhunda, who lived and died in submission.
Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon Him) said :
“Take my advice with regard to women : Act kindly towards women , for they were created from a rib, and the most crooked part of a rib is its uppermost . If you attempt to straighten it ; you will break it, and if you leave it alone it will remain crooked ; so act kindly toward women.”
“The children of Adam are limbs of each other. Having been created of one essence. When the calamity of time afflicts one limb, the other limbs cannot remain at rest. If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others, you are not worthy to be called by the name of ‘man’.”