Today, Afghans who cried for justice across the globe after Farkhunda’s March killing in Kabul were thrown a bone.
Farkhunda, a student of Islam, was beaten and burned to death by a young mob in Afghanistan’s capital after she was wrongly accused of burning the Quran. The attack was captured on video and posted on social media, shocking Afghans in Afghanistan and abroad. Demonstrations from Hamburg to Australia calling for justice and vigils in honor of Farkhunda transformed her into a female icon and martyr. The irony that she studied with the Muslim Brotherhood in Kabul is another story.
The Afghan court sentenced four men to death, including Zainuddin, the mullah who incited the beating, and Sharaf Baghlany, who bragged about it on Facebook; eight were convicted to 16 years in prison, and 18 were freed. Three suspects are on the run and the derelict police officers will hear their verdict on Sunday. It was a trial so speedy, so messy that it was explicitly symbolic. Yes, it’s better than nothing but it’s not enough.
What happened to the killer who ran over her body with a car?, Farkhunda’s father asked. What happened to the dozens of others who gave her a kick, including the woman who confessed on TV? What about the men who condoned the killing, like Mullah Ayaz Niazi and the rep from the Ministry of Hajj? What was their punishment?
In an attempt to silence the activists and sympathizers who have been demanding justice, this was the answer from the Afghan government: Here’s your quick justice, now move on.
Comprehensive justice would look like this: All those who took part in killing her should be sentenced to prison. The police should be convicted for dereliction of duty. More importantly, officials and mullahs who condoned the attack should be demoted from their positions and their speeches and sermons monitored. Only a woman official was fired for her approval of the murder; the men received a cold shoulder. Women’s rights and religious education infused with tolerance and equality need to become top priorities, not to be brushed off as “we’re not ready for such Western concepts yet.”
Yes, Afghans are ready for women to be counted as human beings and for religion to become a source of compassion, not hate. We’ve been ready for decades. We just need our state and religious leaders to step up to the plate.