The Afghan execution video: set to be repeated?

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s something old, something previously reported. But no - the news story about the video of a young Afghan woman being cold-bloodedly shot dead for adultery is yet another fresh horror out of this horror-stricken country.

Identified only as “Najiba” and apparently aged 22, this woman is shot nine times for the “crime” of committing adultery. It reportedly happened about a week ago in the village of Qol in Parwan province, not far from Kabul.

It seems the execution was about as “extra-judicial” as you could imagine: no investigation or trial, simply accusations and a pronouncement that she should die followed by a killing in front of about 150 onlookers. In other words, the process - if that’s the right word - didn’t even pretend to be a fair one (unlike, for example, the way the Iranian authorities have claimed - though extremely unconvincingly - that the Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani adultery case has been handled lawfully).

On top of all this, it's also being reported that the “adultery” charge in Najiba’s case actually stemmed from bitter rivalry between two Taleban fighters, with Najiba some kind of love interest-cum-chattel in their deadly rivalry.

What can you say? It's so utterly depressing it leaves you speechless (the sight of the woman crouched down on the ground in a blue burkha awaiting her death is truly pitiful). William Hague’s response is about right: he naturally expresses “shock and disgust” but also says “Such deplorable actions underline the vital need for better protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, where they continue to face huge challenges”.

OK, slightly over-formal in its expression, but this is the nub of it. It’s hard to see the premeditated cruelty of these executioners as anything other than a kind of challenge to the central authorities in Kabul. “Forget all that stuff about women’s rights”, they seem to be saying to President Karzai’s government, “THIS is how we deal with women and THIS is our law”.

In recent years I’ve blogged numerous times (most recently here) on the topic of whether Afghan women are going to be sacrificed, Najiba-like, to the Taleban by a war-fatigued Kabul government and its international partners desperate for “peace” at almost any cost. There have already been numerous signs of appeasement with Afghanistan’s misogynists (both the armed groups and the country’s religious conservatives).

If President Karzai’s government sell out women to the Taleban it will be a terrible betrayal of the trust of millions of people in the country as well as a slap in the face for governments like the UK’s which, by and large, has genuinely supported the rights of Afghan women and girls. It will also mean more Najibas and more snuff videos like the one in the news today. 

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