Family says Farkhunda, 27, made accusations against a local mullah
Mullah reportedly began shouting that she had burned the Quran
Grieving women carried her coffin high on their shoulders in scenes many said they had never witnessed before in the Afghan capital.
Men are traditionally pallbearers in Kabul, where days earlier a mob of male attackers beat and kicked 27-year-old Farkhunda before tossing her off a bridge, setting her body on fire and throwing it in the river. Like many Afghans, Farkhunda used only one name.
Early reports suggested that Farkhunda was mentally ill, but her tearful father, Nadir, told CNN affiliate TOLOnews she was a religious teacher who taught the Quran to children. He said there was no way his daughter would burn pages of the holy book, which has been cited as the motive for the horrific attack.
Twenty-six people have been arrested in connection with the brutal killing, Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Noorul Haq Ulumi said Monday in a statement before parliament.
Farkhunda’s parents said the killing was instigated by a local mullah of the Shah-e-Do Shamshera Mosque in the city’s center, who had been angered by Farkhunda’s accusations that he was distributing false tawiz.
Tawiz are pieces of paper containing verses of the Quran which are sometimes worn as pendants to ward off evil and bring the wearer good luck.
TOLOnews reported that “in order to save his job and life,” the mullah reportedly began shouting accusations that Farkhunda had burned the Quran.
Witnesses said a crowd gathered and hauled Farkhunda into the street.
“We were asking the people to stop beating her and let us ask what religion she belongs to,” one witness told TOLOnews. “But the people didn’t listen to us and kept beating her.”
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs said it had found no evidence Farkhunda burned the Quran. Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the killing as “heinous” and ordered a commission to investigate it fully.
Farkhunda’s father said those guilty of killing his daughter should face justice: “I don’t want blood of my daughter go in vain.”
Thirteen police officials have been suspended in connection with the attack, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi. He earlier confirmed 11 people had been arrested.
“We’re very interested particularly to see what happens in terms of the investigation of the police behavior,” said Patricia Grossman, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“That was, for us, one of the most troubling aspects of this case – that the police did not intervene adequately and properly to save her when there was an opportunity to do so.”
Buried by women
On Sunday, as they watched Farkhunda’s casket being carried to her grave, the crowd shouted “Kabul police officials should be fired,” according to Afghan human rights activist Ramin Anwari.
Government officials, ministers, journalists and civil society members were among the thousands of people who attended her funeral, Anwari said. Many of them are expected to attend a large rally planned for Tuesday outside Afghanistan’s Supreme Court in Kabul to call for justice for Farkhunda, he said. A Facebook page has been created in support of the cause.
On Friday, the United Nations issued a statement condemning the killing “in the strongest terms.”
“We are encouraged by initial reports of the arrest of several suspects, but call on the authorities to investigate this incident fully and bring to justice all persons who actively participated in the killing, or aided and abetted it,” said Elzira Sagynbaeva, the representative in Afghanistan for UN Women. She said the rise in cases of violence against women and girls in Afghanistan had become a “major concern” and must not be tolerated.
Grossman of Human Rights Watch said the attack was unusual because it took place in public and in the capital. However, she added,”Violence against women is rampant in Afghanistan. That’s the kind of thing we’d like to see people address beyond this particular case.”
CNN’s Greg Botelho and Jessica King contributed to this report.