Video shows Afghan woman being executed for adultery

The public execution of a woman for adultery in what was once a peaceful region of Afghanistan raises questions about the power and influence of the Taliban.

Mohammad Ismail/Reuters
Afghan women talk to a carpet vendor in his shop in Kabul July 8.

A man Afghan officials say is a member of the Taliban shot dead a woman accused of adultery in front of a crowd near Kabul, a video obtained by Reuters showed, a sign that the austere Islamist group dictates law even near the Afghan capital.

In the three-minute video, a turban-clad man approaches a woman kneeling in the dirt and shoots her five times at close range with an automatic rifle, to cheers of jubilation from the 150 or so men watching in a village in Parwan province.

"Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it's the wrong way," another man says as the shooter gets closer to the woman. "It is the order of Allah that she be executed."

Provincial Governor Basir Salangi said the video, obtained on Saturday, was shot a week ago in the village of Qimchok in Shinwari district, about an hour's drive from Kabul.

Such rare public punishment was a painful reminder to Afghan authorities of the Taliban's 1996-2001 period in power, and it raised concern about the treatment of Afghan women 11 years into the NATO-led war against Taliban insurgents.

"When I saw this video, I closed my eyes ... The woman was not guilty; the Taliban are guilty," Salangi told Reuters.

When the unnamed woman, most of her body tightly wrapped in a shawl, fell sideways after being shot several times in the head, the spectators chanted: "Long live the Afghan mujahideen! (Islamist fighters)", a name the Taliban use for themselves.

The Taliban could not be reached for comment.

Despite the presence of over 130,000 foreign troops and 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, the Taliban have managed to resurge beyond their traditional bastions of the south and east, extending their reach into once more peaceful areas like Parwan.

Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and work since the Taliban, who deemed them un-Islamic for women, were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

But fears are rising among Afghan women, some lawmakers and rights activists that such freedoms could be traded away as the Afghan government and the United States pursue talks with the Taliban to secure a peaceful end to the war.

Violence against women has increased sharply in the past year, according to Afghanistan's independent human rights commission. Activists say there is waning interest in women's rights on the part of President Hamid Karzai's government.

"After 10 years (of foreign intervention), and only a few kilometres from Kabul... how could this happen in front of all these people?" female lawmaker Fawzia Koofi said of the publicexecution in Parwan.

"This is happening under a government that claims to have made so much progress in women's rights, claims to have changed women's lives, and this is unacceptable. It is a huge step backwards," said Koofi, a campaigner for girls' education who wants to run in the 2014 presidential election.

Salangi said two Taliban commanders were sexually involved with the woman in Parwan, either through rape or romantically, and decided to torture her and then kill her to settle a dispute between the two of them.

"They are outlaws, murderers, and like savages they killed the woman," he said, adding that the Taliban exerted considerable sway in his province.

Earlier this week a 30-year-old woman and two of her children were beheaded in eastern Afghanistan by a man police said was her divorced husband, the latest of a string of so-called "honour killings".

Some Afghans still refer to Taliban courts for settling disputes, viewing government bodies as corrupt or unreliable. The courts use sharia (Islamic law), which prescribes punishments such as stonings and executions.

Additional reporting and writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Mark Heinrich

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.