Afghanistan: Woman executed for adultery

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BADAKHSHAN, 3 May 2005 (IRIN) - It's less than a week since the tiny Afghan village community witnessed the execution of 25-year-old Bibi Amena for adultery, but by Tuesday life appeared to have returned to normal. Bibi was sentenced to death by local religious leaders in the Spingul valley in the isolated northeastern province of Badakhshan.

Her crime was to be found in the company of a man she was not married to.

"After two days of investigation and community gatherings the Shura [community council] passed the verdict. The boy [she was found with] was given 40 lashes and the woman killed," Mohammad Azim, one of Amena's paternal uncles, told IRIN.

Everyone in the isolated, conservative village, including the woman's parents, said she deserved to be killed. Mohammad Aslam, father of the executed woman is in police custody charged with her murder, along with six other men.

"She was stoned to death right here, we buried her up to the chest and then they stoned her, she died after two hours," Azim continued nonchalantly, as he drew a circle around a pile of small stones in a nearby field. "There were seventy people at the stoning, I watched for few minutes but then left."

The killing was even endorsed by Amena'a mother.

"When the verdict was announced they came to consult me and I said, 'kill her' she said, without emotion. "I am proud and happy that she [Amena] was killed, because she undermined the honour of the village."

But Amena's tragic end, battered to death by rocks and her body rolled unceremoniously into a shallow grave, has not even raised eyebrows in a community that has witnessed at least one other recent execution of a woman accused of adultery.

"Seyahmoi [a 30-year-old woman] was shot dead in front of the community because she was a prostitute," a resident who declined to be named, told IRIN.

The new Afghanistan, which professes respect for the rule of law and women's rights are acknowledged, seems a long way from this village, even though it's only 30 km north of the provincial capital, Faizabad, Most of the local people are illiterate and are beholden to religious leaders schooled in madrasas (Islamic religious schools) in neighbouring Pakistan.

In Faizabad 200 NATO-led international peacekeeping troops and hundreds of newly trained Afghan police are deployed. None of them were there to protect Bibi Amena from the traditional court that tried, sentenced and executed her.

Constitutionally and under Afghan law, cases such as Amena's should have been heard in local courts with a qualified and experienced magistrate bu Kabul is still struggling to extend rule to the provinces like Badakhshan. Here, Hamid Karzai's government and due legal process are viewed with deep suspicion by the local populace.

Spingul residents told IRIN that 'crimes' and disputes are always solved through the village Shura composed of elders and religious leaders.

"Courts are corrupt and they never solve issues," said Mohammad Asif, 22, recently returned from Pakistan after schooling in religious studies.

This isolated province was one of the few that the fundamentalist Taliban, infamous for their public executions, were never able to conquer. Life is incredibly tough for women in this region in many ways. Maternal mortality levels are among the highest in the world.

Sitting in a well furnished office in Faizabad city, Anis Akhgar, the head of the women's affairs department in Badakhshan, tried to make sense of the death. According to Akhgar, high labour migration from the impoverished province has resulted in men being absent, sometimes for years at a time. This has led to incidents where women may have sought the company of members of the opposite sex.

"But to be killed like this for talking to a man...such wickedness has no place in the country we are trying to build," she said.


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