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KABUL: Dozens of men and women took to the streets of Kabul yesterday to protest against the public slaying of an Afghan woman accused of adultery.
The brutal, execution-style killing was captured on video. The footage, which surfaced recently, shows the woman being shot several times about 10 days ago in Parwan province, north of the Afghan capital. The gunman was encouraged by people who stood nearby, smiling and cheering.
Police in Parwan said the Taliban were behind the killing, but the insurgents deny they ordered or carried out the slaying.
The death of the unidentified woman, who was said to be in her twenties, set off a storm of condemnation. President Hamid Karzai, the US embassy, the top Nato military commander in Afghanistan and activist groups all denounced the killing.
It was a reminder that girls and women still suffer shocking abuse in Afghanistan, but the protest also indicated that people’s views on women’s rights there could be slowly changing.
“We want the government to take action on behalf of these women… who are victims of violence and who are being killed,” said Zuhra Alamyar, a woman activist at the Kabul rally. “We want the government to take serious action and stop them.”
The crowd of about 50 demonstrators carried large white sheets that said: “International community: Where is the protection and justice for Afghan women?” They marched from the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs to a traffic circle near a UN compound, and some shouted: “Death to those who did this act!”
Despite guaranteed rights and progressive new laws, the UN Development Programme still ranks Afghanistan as one of the world’s worst countries when it comes to rights for women. Afghan advocates say attitudes have subtly shifted over the years, in part thanks to the dozens of women’s groups that have sprung up.
Still, ending abuse of women is a huge challenge in a patriarchal society where traditional practices include child marriage, giving girls away to settle debts or pay for their relatives’ crimes and so-called honour killings in which girls seen as disgracing their families are murdered by relatives.
Women activists worry that gains made in recent years could erode as the international presence in Afghanistan wanes and the government seeks to negotiate with the hardline Islamic Taliban insurgents. During the Taliban regime, women were banned from working and going to school, or even leaving home without a male relative. In public, all women were forced wear a head-to-toe burka, which covers even the face with a mesh panel.
The video surfaced just before donor nations met at the weekend in Tokyo and pledged $16 billion (R132bn) in aid for Afghanistan. The donors expressed strong concerns over how the money would be handled and called on Kabul to improve human rights, especially women’s rights.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a Nato service member died yesterday in a roadside bombing in the south. Nato did not disclose any other information about the death.
So far this year, 232 Nato service members have been killed in Afghanistan. – Sapa-AP