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Public Stoning Condemned In Afghanistan

A RFE/RL video grab shows Afghan men stoning Afghan woman Rokhsana (C, in hole) to death in Ghalmeen, Afghanistan's Ghor province, according to local officials, October 25, 2015
A RFE/RL video grab shows Afghan men stoning Afghan woman Rokhsana (C, in hole) to death in Ghalmeen, Afghanistan's Ghor province, according to local officials, October 25, 2015

Afghan lawmakers have condemned and ordered an investigation into the stoning death of a young woman accused of adultery.

Lawmakers discussed the killing, which took place in the remote Ghor Province in late October, during a November 4 parliamentary session.

"As a representative of the Afghan people, I urge [the government] to hand over to the clutches of the law those behind this incident and the wild criminals who ruthlessly killed or stoned a woman to death," Shukria Paikan, a legislator from the northern province of Kunduz, said during the session.

The brutal death of 19-year-old Rukhshana was captured in a two-minute video obtained from an eyewitness by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. The video, an edited version of which was published this week, shows men identified as Taliban militants hurling stones at Rukhshana as she kneels in a hole in the ground, reciting an Islamic creed.

WATCH: Amateur video shows the stoning of a woman to death in the city of Firoz-Koh in Ghor Province on October 25.

Taliban Stones Woman To Death In Afghanistan
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The killing reportedly took place in Ghalmin, a village on the outskirts of Firoz Koh, the capital of Ghor Province.

Ghor Governor Sima Joyenda told RFE/RL on November 2 that the stoning was carried out by "Taliban, local religious leaders, and armed warlords" after Rukhshana was found guilty of committing adultery. Joyenda said that her family had married her off against her will and that she was caught while eloping with a 23-year-old Mohammad Gul.

Gul was lashed for the same crime, according to local police.

Stoning 'Un-Islamic'

Najia Aimaq, a parliament member from the northern Baghlan Province, told fellow lawmakers that the stoning should have been prevented. "Those individuals who carry out such acts should be handed over to clutches of the law and should be punished," she said.

In a November 4 statement, the office of President Ashraf Ghani called the stoning "extra-judicial, un-Islamic, and criminal" and condemned the incident in the "strongest terms." The statement added that the president had assigned a delegation to "seriously investigate" the matter.

Rafiullah Bedar, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, told Shamshad TV on November 3 that the stoning was "un-Islamic."

The Taliban has been widely accused of carrying out the stoning, a punishment rarely seen in Afghanistan since Taliban rule ended. In 2010, Amnesty International reported what it called the "first confirmed stoning in the country since the fall of the Taliban in 2001." In that case, a couple accused of adultery was stoned to death in a public execution in Kunduz Province.

Did The Taliban Do It?

Local police official Mohammad Zaman Azimi has said the stoning was carried out by the Taliban, as did Masooma Anwari, the head of women's affairs in Ghor.

But some, including activist Wazhma Frogh, co-founder of the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security, are skeptical. "We are told elders did this!" Frogh wrote in a November 3 tweet. "Not defending any atrocities of Ts [the Taliban] but if done by elders then we're covering up a crime."

Joyenda -- the female governor of Ghor who has been the target of death threats, protests calling for her ouster, and outside criticism after a young couple was lashed in her province recently -- stressed that the village where the stoning occurred was controlled by the Taliban.

The provincial government's power extends little beyond Firoz Koh. Dozens of illegal, armed groups run by former warlords and militia leaders are active in Ghor, a key transit route for arms and drugs, and the resulting clashes are seen to be the source of much of the violence in the province.

The war in Afghanistan is often used as cover for a wide range of crimes, including revenge killings, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion.

Harsh Justice

The Taliban is also not a homogenous group. Afghan officials have used the name to label hostile former warlords, religious leaders, and tribal elders.

Capital punishment was widely practiced by the Taliban regime, which ruled much of the country from 1996-2001. Convicted adulterers were routinely shot or stoned in executions conducted in front of large crowds.

In rural areas, where Taliban militants exert considerable influence, some Afghans still turn to Taliban courts to settle disputes because they consider government bodies to be corrupt or unreliable. The Taliban courts employ strict interpretations of Shari'a law, which prescribes punishments such as stoning and executions.

The Afghan Constitution considers Islam to be the "religion of the state" and says that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam."

The stoning of convicted adulterers is banned under Afghan law. However, in many areas controlled by the Taliban, it is not uncommon for men or women found guilty of having a relationship outside marriage to be sentenced to death, or publicly flogged.

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