Thousands have marched through the Afghan capital, demanding justice for a woman who was beaten to death by a mob a week ago after being falsely accused of burning a Quran.
Men and women of all ages carried banners and some painted their faces red as a symbol of the bloodied face of Farkhunda, the 27-year-old religious scholar killed last week by the mob.
Farkhunda, who went by one name like many Afghans, was beaten, run over with a car and burned before her body was thrown into the Kabul River.
She drew a line with her blood between those who want justice, rule of law, and those who are extreme in their views and who breed in lawlessness
Organisers of Tuesday’s march – the second protest over the brutal slaying in as many days – estimated that up to 3,000 people took part.
Marchers chanted “Justice for Farkhunda!” and “Death to the killers!”
Amrullah Saleh, a political leader and former director of the intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, said the demonstrators sought to make Farkhanda an icon of the struggle against “injustice, mob court, street violence, violence against women, lawlessness, extremism” and, especially the injustice suffered by women.
“She is an example of probably what has happened silently to many,” Saleh told the Associated Press news agency. “She drew a line with her blood between those who want justice, rule of law, and those who are extreme in their views and who breed in lawlessness.”
Police reportedly stood by without intervening as the attack happened.
The Interior Ministry said 28 people have been arrested and 13 police officers suspended as part of investigations.
The spokesman for the Kabul police, Hashmat Stanikzai, has been sacked over comments he made on social media supporting Farkhunda’s killers.
Dispute with vendors
The attack appeared to have grown out of a dispute between Farkhunda, a veiled woman who had just finished a degree in religious studies and was preparing to take a teaching post, and men who sold amulets at Kabul’s famous Shah-Do Shamshera shrine.
Farkhuda urged women not to waste their money on the amulets, her friends and family have said. Her father, Mohammed Nadir, said the men responded by making false accusations that she had torched a Quran, which set off the brutal assault.
Among the protesters on Tuesday were prominent rights activists, including Fatana Gailani, the head of the Afghanistan Women’s Council, who said she hoped the incident would be a catalyst for change in a society traumatised by war, corruption and lack of leadership.
“The new generation has known nothing but war, they are not educated,” she said.
The demonstrators also called for action against officials and religious leaders who had initially said that Farkhunda’s killing was justifiable if she had burned pages of a Quran, the Muslim holy book.
President Ashraf Ghani took office in September following a bitter election campaign during which he promised to champion women’s constitutional rights, end corruption and bring peace.
Despite constitutional guarantees of equality and protection from violence, women in Afghanistan are still widely subject to violence, both privately and publicly.
The EU on Tuesday called for the attackers to be brought to justice.
“The killing of Ms Farkhunda… is a tragic reminder of dangers women face from false accusations and the lack of justice in Afghanistan,” a spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. “We all hope that (those) responsible can be brought to justice.”