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'Brutality Beyond Imagination': Mother Speaks Of Daughter's Murder By Afghan Mob

Afghan civil society activist women weep and lie on the grave of Afghan woman Farkhunda, 27, who was lynched by an angry mob in central Kabul in March.
Afghan civil society activist women weep and lie on the grave of Afghan woman Farkhunda, 27, who was lynched by an angry mob in central Kabul in March.

Nine months after her daughter was killed by a frenzied mob in Kabul, emotions are still raw for Hajera Bibi.

Farkhunda Malikzada, 27, was beaten to death after being falsely accused of burning a copy of the Koran, and her body was run over by a car and set on fire during the attack near a shrine in the Afghan capital on March 19.

Hajera Bibi has since moved to neighboring Tajikistan, where she lives along with her family in a rented apartment in a quiet Dushanbe neighborhood.

"She is always in my mind, I still see her face, as if it happened yesterday," the victim's mother told RFE/RL's Tajik Service in an interview on December 16. She said that her hair turned grey after Farkhunda was killed.

"How on earth is it possible to kill a woman in such a horrible manner?" she asked. "This level of cruelty has never happened anywhere in this world."

Hajera Bibi
Hajera Bibi

Farkhunda's killing sparked angry protests across Afghanistan and condemnation around the world.

Fighting back tears, Hajera Bibi recalled the day Farkhunda left home for her religion classes, telling the family she would stop by at "the university to fill in some forms."

"I spoke to her on the phone around the noon, and she told me, 'Mom, I'm on the way home,'" Hajera Bibi said.

On her way home, Farkhunda, a religious student and devout Muslim, stopped at the Shah-e Do-Shamshera shrine for brief prayers, her mother said.

According to eyewitnesses, Farkhunda had an argument with the caretaker of the shrine over amulets -- pieces of paper with verses from the Koran scrawled on them -- that faith-healers sell to customers claiming they cure diseases or solve problems.

False Accusations

Farkhunda regarded the amulets un-Islamic, Hajera Bibi said.

The caretaker accused Farkhunda of burning a copy of the Koran, a claim that incited the frenzied mob attack against her.

Gruesome mobile-phone footage show a crowd of men pulling Farkhunda -- clad in black Islamic hijab -- out of the shrine, kicking her as she pleaded with the attackers to stop.

The attack, which culminated with the crowd throwing her burned body into the Kabul River, took place in broad daylight and in full view of police.

The family has since expressed its disappointment with the inaction of the policemen who were on duty in the area.

Hajera Bibi, however, said she was even more shocked when police authorities instructed the family, on the night of the attack, to tell everyone that Farkhunda had a mental illness.

Educated, Intelligent

Her daughter didn't suffer from any such illness and was an "educated, intelligent, and very kind person," she said.

Afghan women's rights activists carry the coffin of Farkhunda during her burial ceremony in Kabul in March.

"But I didn't say anything," Hajera Bibi said, recalling the conversation with Kabul police officials. "I plead with God for justice."

Hajera Bibi said the police told the family to leave Kabul for their own safety.

For the next three months, the family lived between their native province of Kapisa and Kabul, watching dozens of men, including 11 policemen go on trial over Farkhunda's killing.

A police investigation revealed that Farkhunda had not burned anything. The mobile-phone footage and the trials were broadcast live on national television.

The killing turned the family's life "upside down," Hajera Bibi said.

Her younger daughters were too scared to go to school and the family was disappointed with how ordinary people treated their daughter with such cruelty, she said.

"In our neighborhood everyone knows that Farkhunda was a very decent girl of a respectable family," Hajera Bibi said.

"My husband is an engineer who got his diploma in Germany and he was working as a German translator in Kabul. All my sons and daughters are educated," she said.

Over the summer, the family moved to Tajikistan's capital to rebuild their lives far from Kabul, where "everything reminded" them of Farkhunda -- and of the attack that abruptly ended her young life and "her dreams of completing her studies, getting married, and having family of her own."

Hajera Bibi said she is grateful to authorities in Dushanbe for granting the family a Tajik visa.

But she is undecided about the future.

Hajera Bibi said that when she sees women in Dushanbe working and peacefully going about their lives, she thinks of the treatment of women in Afghanistan.

Many Afghan women frequently "face cruelty," including domestic violence, but the perpetrators usually go unpunished, she said.

She pointed to the stoning death of a 19-year-old woman named Rukshana in central Ghor Province in October.

Meanwhile, an Afghan appeal court has overturned death sentences in Farkhunda's killing and reduced several long-term prison sentences.

Farkhunda's family is still seeking justice. Her husband and daughter recently traveled to Kabul to talk to lawyers and Afghan authorities about the case.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on an interview by RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Ganjinai Ganj

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.