Friday, March 27, 2015

Farkhunda: Hope from Despair by Frozan Marofi

Rights activists carry the coffin of 27-year-old Farkhunda ...
From The Guardian... 
In Afghanistan, there is a real possibility that the horrific murder of a young woman could finally bring real change to our society... 
 By Frozan Marofi

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – it started very small; none of us had a plan. When I saw on Facebook that Farkhunda would be buried Sunday morning I quickly posted the information on Timeline and got myself together. I wore black, for my sorrow; I wore trainers on my feet, so that I could be strong.

My daughter Regwida and I went to the graveyard where Farkhunda would be buried. There was just one other woman there. She was wearing very red lipstick; I told her to take it off, and she did.

All we wanted was to express our sorrow, nothing more. But more and more women began to arrive. Soon we were about 35, all come to pay their respects to this martyr of Afghanistan.

You know Farkhunda; she was the young woman – just 27 – beaten to death by a mob in the very center of Kabul last Thursday. This did not happen in some remote village, in some dark area, but right in our capital, among police checkpoints, embassies, ministries. Even the presidential palace is not far away from the Shah do Shamshira shrine, where this terrible thing happened.

A mullah said that Farkhunda had burned the Quran. It was a lie; all she did was tell him that his business of selling tawiz – small scraps of paper with religious verses that are supposed to be powerful spells – was against Islam. This mullah began to yell that Farkhunda had desecrated the Holy Book. Soon a crowd formed, and began to beat her with sticks, stones, their feet. They tied her to a car and dragged her through the streets; they threw her body on the riverbank and set it alight.

I do not know what made these men so wild; I do not know what was in their hearts. They shouted "Allahu Akbar!" as they killed her. As a Muslim, it is painful to hear God is Great chanted while taking an innocent life – it is a manipulation of the Islam I know that promises women their rights, to be educated and to have a voice.  But this is what people shout when they think they are doing something right. How could this be right?

Some of our public figures approved of the killing. Maulawi Ayaz Niyazi said that the people who killed Farkhunda should not be punished. The Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, Simin Hassanzada, agreed.

Farkhunda was laid out on a playground, where children play football. There was no room in the graveyard itself. This Maualwi Niyzai came to pray over her body, but I stood in front of him and told him, respectfully, sir we do not allow you to pray for Farkhunda.

He had a man with him who said "This is our dead body, who do you think you are?"

I told him "This is not your dead body. Farkhunda belongs to all of the women of Kabul, of Afghanistan. Her body belongs to all Afghan mothers."

Suddenly the other girls started to shout "we do not want Niyazi here."

And he left.

When the time came to take the body to the grave, the women said "We will do it." They did not allow a single man to touch Farkhunda.

But I said to her brother, "You come with us. It is your right." He answered, "No, I will not. Farkhunda's sister will take the body."

It was the very first time in Afghanistan – maybe in all the Islamic world – when women took a dead body to the grave.

There were many men from Farkhunda's family, and they made a ring around us to protect us. They supported us and respected us. I think that is such a small number of women could make such a big change in the minds of so many men, that we can do anything.

The demonstration was scheduled for Tuesday; the word spread on Facebook, on Twitter, on Viber. We were in touch with the whole world; everyone supported us.

It began to rain on that morning. I was afraid that no one would come. But when we arrived at Massoud circle, there were thousands of people. Every political party was there, civil society organization, women's rights activists, university students, and just ordinary civilians. There were women in full chadori, only their eyes exposed; there were twelve-year-old girls. There were men and boys.

We all came together with one voice, with one goal: justice for Farkhunda.

We marched in the rain, all the way to the Supreme Court and back. We shouted "Farkhunda is our sister!" "We want justice!" and "We have been silent long enough!"

I think the most moving tribute was from Rawand-e-Sabz, the "Green Trend," a movement organized by former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh.

There were a lot of men and boys, all with green scarves or ribbons around their necks, standing silently along the route, with their heads bowed.

"We are ashamed," said Saleh, who attended the rally. "We are ashamed that we could not defend Farkhunda."

There are people who want harsh punishment for those who killed Farkhunda. Some say that the mullah who started it should be burned, the way they burned Farkhunda. But if we do that, how are we different from them? We have laws, we have a policy. They should be punished according to the law.

At the end of the demonstration a bunch of men showed up and began to shout "Allahu Akbar!"

Some people think they may have been sent to make trouble. But I prefer to think that even they were supporting us, supporting Farkhunda.

I have hope for my country. People all over Afghanistan, in Badakhshan, in Herat, in Dai Kudi, in Bamyan, all are saying the killing of Farkhunda was bad. Even the Taliban have come out to say it was not a good thing.

So I am optimistic. I hope that I am right.

Frozan Marofi is Women for Women International's Manager for Social Empowerment. She has been a women's rights activist in Afghanistan for more than a decade.

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