Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Saving the Memory of Farkhunda

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Nargis Azaryun is a founder of youth organisation Road to Equality and Development (RED), and Project Coordinator at Ascend Afghanistan.  She participated in the WELDD workshop in Jakarta in August 2014.

A week ago, I woke up to the most horrifying news I have ever heard.

It was Friday morning, March 20 – the day before Nowruz (Afghan and Persian New Year). The night before, I had gone to sleep excited, with loads of plans for marking the holiday with my family and loved ones. We were planning to go to Paghman, a beautiful village about 25 km outside of Kabul to celebrate and enjoy nature.

I woke up around 9 a.m. and checked my Facebook account. It was full of pictures and videos of a woman who had just been brutally killed by a mob in Kabul. The first sentences I read about the incident left me in shock: "Today we killed a woman who burned the Quran-e Sharif, Allahu Akbar." I watched the videos taken by people who were present at the crime scene. It was horrifying. I saw a helpless woman surrounded by hundreds of people, everyone kicking her. Then they drove a car over her and stoned her and then threw her in the Kabul River and burned her body. No one could help her. The police did not help her because everyone believed that she deserved to die, deserved to be burned to death because they thought she burned the Quran.

I was in shock for hours. I forgot about going to Paghman and about Nowruz. I cried for hours, thinking how helpless she was when they were kicking her. She kept screaming and saying "I haven't burned the Quran," but no one was listening to her. They killed her and later the government announced that there was no proof of her burning the Quran; she had had an argument with the mullah of the Shah-e Do Shamshira mosque, and the mullah told everyone that she is a kafir (unbeliever) and has burnt the Quran. So the mullah’s followers attacked her, beat her to death and then burned her body.

My friends called me and we decided to go pay a visit to this woman’s family. The next morning, we went to their house. Inside, there was a room was full of people, including three women: the victim’s mother and two sisters. Her sister hugged me and started crying, "They killed her, they killed my sister." I started crying too. We all sat with them for hours until they brought Farkhunda’s body in an ambulance. We told the men that we wanted to carry her coffin. They agreed, but told us we could do that only from the ambulance to the yard; people outside shouldn't see that women carried her coffin.

We brought her to the yard, and everyone was screaming. One of her sisters fainted. Women from the neighborhood were gathered at the house. It was time to take her to the graveyard. We placed her coffin back inside the ambulance and started driving. Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the cemetery, where we carried Farkhunda’s coffin to a corner of the cemetery, where mourners said the Salat al-Janazah funeral prayer for her. After the prayer, we went around the coffin, held hands and insisted that we will pick her up and bury her. Her father agreed, and we carried her to the grave, buried her and promised her that we will advocate for her until the murderers are punished.

Farkhunda. Killed on March 19 at 2:00 p.m. in Shah-e Do Shamshira by a misguided, hate-driven mob.