Skip to main content

Why world must react to Taliban execution

By Zainab Salbi, Special to CNN
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed July 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Zainab Salbi: Execution of woman in Afghanistan is show of Taliban's confidence
  • She says killing woman for alleged adultery flouted Afghan legal system, spirit of Islam
  • She says Taliban uses force to repress women first; world must react, not just denounce
  • Salbi: It's short step between Taliban brutality toward women, aggression to rest of world

Editor's note: Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi American writer, activist and social entrepreneur who is founder of Washington-based Women for Women International, a humanitarian organization aimed at helping women survivors of war

(CNN) -- The execution of Najiba, an Afghan woman in her 20's, shot 13 times in front of a cheering crowed in Parwan province -- and seen widely online in a grainy cell phone video -- is a show of confidence by the Taliban.

It's unclear why she was shot, but local officials offer various reasons for her execution.

She was reportedly executed last month for adultery, a crime that is indeed punishable in Islam. But for an adultery charge to be proved, Islam requires four eyewitness accounts that match precisely.

This is nearly impossible in cultures like Najiba's, where sexual acts are extremely discrete. But that religious requirement is irrelevant in any case to the Taliban, whose fanatic view of Islam has been nothing but a violation of the spirit of the religion itself.

Manhunt under way for Taliban who shot woman in public execution amid cheers

After an hour-long trial, Najiba was shot either by her Taliban husband or someone else. (One version of the story is she had affairs with two Taliban members.) But this case is less about Najiba and more about the Taliban demonstrating its power, even as the United States and Afghanistan attempt negotiations with the Taliban.

You see, women are like the canary in the coal mine: What happens to them is an indicator of a larger political direction for the society.

The Taliban has consistently used women to demonstrate its power. When it first took over much of Afghanistan in 1996, it imposed the harshest seclusion and prosecution of women in modern history. Afghan women suffered under house imprisonments. They were forbidden education and any form of mobility, to name only a few of its brutal prohibitions.

Why women face challenges in Afghanistan
Why women face challenges in Afghanistan
Afghan woman executed in public

But when the international community entered Afghanistan in 2001 and started introducing laws to protect women's rights, albeit in very basic ways, the Taliban retreated as its political and military power was weakened. In the past two years, however, and particularly since the international community started talking about withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban began boldly resuming its own rules in provinces where they have recently regained control, such as Parwan province. And this has been reflected in one act of violence toward women after another.

Through such public acts -- sometimes recorded, as this one was -- the Taliban is demonstrating its complete disregard of the Afghan government and the national rule of law.

Women's rights cannot be taken lightly, nor can they be seen as a marginal issue separate from the political process of a country. The international community entered Afghanistan with a clear promise to protect women's rights and invest in creating opportunities for women to stand up on their feet.

Afghan women took advantage of the opportunities that were presented. They ran for and took political offices, they sent their daughters to school, they took loans from microcredit entities and started new business, and they worked in factories all at personal risks.

They are now asking whether the international community is planning to abandon them as forces prepare to depart Afghanistan in 2014, and they are worried, very worried indeed.

Educated and uneducated women working in all sectors in the country are asking the same question: "Is the international community going to sacrifice its promise to protect us from the rule of the Taliban in order to reach political settlement with it?"

If it is, then all the efforts of every soldier, every taxpayer, every humanitarian worker who has worked -- and in some cases, died -- in Afghanistan will have been in vain.

To abandon the protection of women's rights to seek political agreement with a force of repression is to risk a return not only to insecurity in Afghanistan, but I'd dare say to the world.

The Taliban only started its acts of violence with women. We have to remember that it did not stop there. That violence eventually affected every Afghan man and child, and it eventually came to America and impacted the world.

Saving Face: The struggle and survival of Afghan women

The taping of Najiba's execution is the Taliban's message that it is confident. What's going to be the message back to them from the Afghan government and the international community? Will it be to demonstrate that women's rights and protections are valued in actions, in addition to the political statements already made condemning the execution? We all are responsible for the answer to that question.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Zainab Salbi.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT