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Afghan Women Carry Body of Murdered Student to Grave in Act of Solidarity and Defiance

Afghan Women Carry Body of Murdered Student to Grave in Act of Solidarity and Defiance

by Caitlin Moscatello

It was less than a week ago that a mob of men beat a mentally ill woman to death in Kabul and then burned her corpse. That woman was a student by the name of Farkhunda, and she was 27 years old. She was also innocent of what her assailants accused her of—burning a Quran. On Sunday, group of 30 Afghan women honored the victim and brought attention to violence against women in Afghanistan by taking on funeral roles normally held by men. Together, the women carried Farkhunda's body in a coffin on their shoulders to her grave, also defying a ban on women in cemeteries.

As The Daily Beast reports, female activists visited the mosque where Farkhunda had been murdered and then the next morning went to her family's home to ask if they could take her body to the graveyard. The family agreed, and during the 30-minute walk through Kabul, both men and women allegedly wept at the site of the coffin while others wore masks with images of the victim's bloody face.

When a mullah who reportedly "supported the murder" approached the women to tell them they were not allowed to perform a funeral prayer, the women strengthened their position, forming a circle around the grave and joining hands. As Nargis Azaryun, a 21-year-old youth activist told the DB:

"I didn't pick up the coffin up to tell the men that they are less of a man or anything like that. I picked it up because I wanted to tell the women in this country that if we want to achieve anything we should set up, and do what we want to do. Do it like a woman. And if we stick together, we break taboos.... That is what Farkhunda teaches me: Together we can [sic] the narrative that others write about women. We stood up against the most respected mullah. We carried the coffin and buried her. If we as women stand together, we can achieve a great change."

The United Nations publicly condemned the attack. "The brutal murder of this woman is an unspeakably horrendous act that should result in those responsible being prosecuted, to the fullest extent possible, under Afghan law," said Mark Bowden, the Deputy Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Afghanistan and and acting head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, in a release. As of Saturday,11 arrests had been made in connection to the murder.

Women continue to live with limited rights in Afghanistan, and recent reports show an increase in violence against women, including "cutting the nose, lips, and ears" and "public rape." Last June, the country's government rejected a UN recommendation to end the "prosecution of women for so-called moral crimes,"according to Human Rights Watch. The statistics are startling: Eighty-seven percent of women in Afghanistan experience domestic violence, and the average Afghan woman will not live to 50, according to Amnesty International.

Photos: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images