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Analysis of Women‘s Issues Raised in the Blogs

6.1 Introduction



centuries and many of them were taken up for public debate only during two or three times in the last century on a large scale, one during the period of the King Zahir Shah and secondly during the period of the Russian intervention by the Soviet Union and the Marxist program of social change and political change debated this issue set length. After the fall of Taliban and the reestablishment of democracy, the issues were not discussed in the media for fear of backlash from different sections of the society and were hushed up as it would upset the fragile peace that came after decades of conflict. Occasionally erupt again.

The analysis follows a database enquiry on the data presented with regard to the issue and secondly based on the content analysis which follows the idea of how the content is presented-the subject matter and its treatment. It, therefore, brings to us that there is a different understanding in cyberspace that is much more intense and detailed than in the regular media for many reasons including the problem of space and also the diverse audience. This is explored with regard to all the ten issues.

Therefore, cyberspace and weblog writing as its outcome for women in Afghanistan appear as an instrument giving the Afghan women active social role, a new identity and tremendous opportunity to struggle for their right. Accordingly, nowadays Afghan women activists are present and active in weblog writing. They attempt to approach various social and political issues through debates on religion, culture, ideology and women‘s right in particular. Furthermore, the milieu of their activity re-shapes through factors regarding religious, feminist, secular, cultural issue, and traditional system of society.

Therefore these issues could be seen referring actively on the issues such as weblog writing, the role of internet and cyberspace in these exchanges which are significant. The cyberspace is what enables the Afghan women to write weblogs for communication, learning and to discuss various social issues and political problems.

In this chapter, the sample was analyzed based on the content analysis.

* Note: All passages from the Afghan women weblogs in this research are translated from Dari and Persian into English by the author. They are fully cited for verification.

175 6.2 Issue: Stoning

Manizha Bakhtari (1972) was appointed as Afghanistan Ambassador to the Nordic countries in September 2009. Prior to her ambassadorial assignment. Bakhtari was the chief of staff of the Afghan foreign minister and a part time lecturer at Kabul University. She holds a bachelor degree in journalism and a Master degree in Persian Language and Literature from Kabul University. In 2002, she was accredited as lecturer in the faculty of journalism in Kabul University.

She has written a number of stories which are influenced by her feminist views.

Her stories reflect the challenges and problems of what Afghan women go through in day to day life and they analyze and interpret those challenges and problems. She has also worked for the Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA) which is a nongovernmental organization, specializing in gender, human rights and political training for Afghan women as well as providing vocational training for Afghan women and advocacy.

Furthermore, Manizha Bakhtari is the author of two journalistic books: ―The interesting World of News‖ and ―Ethics and Law in Journalism‖ which are currently taught in Journalism Faculty, Kabul University. On the other hand, she is the author of a researching book about the contemporary history of Afghanistan‘s satire writing (Angabinneshkhand and sharing noshkhand). Also, she is the author of a collection of stories titled (Three Angels). Besides, Manizha Bakhtari was responsible for Parnian Magazine (A Cultural and Literature Quarterly Magazine) as editor in chief.

She has written in her weblog ―shaharnosh‖ from 2008 till 2016 and she is one of the very first weblogger in Afghanistan. Her writings are about women in Afghanistan and include issues such as stoning (shaharnosh.blogfa.com).

On the 19th of March 2015, a 27 year old Afghan girl named Farkhunda Malikzada was murdered by ten angry Muslims at the Shah-Do Shamshira Mosque on the charge of burning the Holy Quran. Her lifeless body was then burned thrown in a river of Kabul (See Appendix, image 3, page 270). She was born in Kabul and had just finished her education in the field of religious studies and had started her career as a teacher. The Mullah of Shah-Do Shamshira Mosque of Kabul had yelled that a woman had burned the Holy Quran. After that the angry Muslim men ran inside the


mosque and started beating her up. Some brief moments of the attack captured through personal cell phones were published, which saw a huge reaction on the Afghanistan media and the whole world as well. The video clips showed her shouting that she had not burned down the Quran and pleading for help while her head broke and her entire face got covered with blood, but all those upset men assaulted her without listening and minutes later she lost her life due to the severity of the wounds (aljazeera.com).

It can be seen in the picture that as the mob of men increases, and so does the severity of the assault increases with none helping her. The police initially made an attempt to scattered the people by air shooting, but was unable to save her from the crowd that mobbed her.

Angry men dragged her motionless body to the street and then ran her over by a car. After a couple of minutes they set her body on fire. Images show that men use their own clothes to keep the fire alight. Police and fire brigade finally transfer her body from the site.

Kabul‘s police published the result of their investigation within three days of the incident. The minister of interior of Afghanistan Noorulhaq Ulomi announced that no trace of burning of the Quran was found in the premises of the mosque but it was all the misleading claim of a charm writer mullah at the mosque which provoked the emotions of people. This mullah used to practice the selling of charms in the premise of the mosque that Farkhunda used to teach. On that day Farkhunda had reminded him that practicing of charms and selling it to people is against the religious rules and ways, after a quick debate he became angry on her and started to accuse her. He calls up some of the rabbles who were currently present at the place telling them that she has burned Quran (aljazeera.com).

Soon after the occurrence of the incident, the public reaction in Afghanistan turned into shock and anger. Many of the protestors, majority of who were women from various stratum and class began to protest on social networks. The information delivery on networks were fast and broadcasting videos and photos of the event soon invited the protesters to join in from different cities. A blogger called Farkhunda a martyr of freedom of speech and appealed to every woman to attend the burial


ceremony of Farkhunda. This call became a revolution called ―Justice for Farkhunda‖


Three days later on March 22nd, Farkhunda‘s body was buried as only women held up her coffin and gave her the proper burial (See Appendix, image 4 page 271).

According to the tradition of Islam especially in Afghanistan, carrying the coffin, prayers and burial can only be done by men and mullahs. But women broke the taboo and did not allow any men and mullahs to come close to Farkhunda and despite the criticism from religious leaders, women have completed the entire religious ceremonies (nytimes.com).

Call out for protests against the murder of Farkhunda was initiated primarily on social networks and shaped in various forms in different cities. For instance, on the burial day at Kabul, another ceremony cloned in Herat as well. A day after the burial, residents of Kabul formed a rally with the name "Solidarity Party of Afghanistan‖ in front of Shah-Do Shamshira Mosque and requested for change of street name to Martyr Farkhunda and their request was accepted immediately. They planted a tree at the point where she was set on fire and called it the ―Tree of Farkhunda‖ (See Appendix, image 5 page 272). This party also had a meeting and called for a rally in the city of Jalaabad. The civil activists and the citizens of most of the cities of Afghanistan also gathered in protest. In Balkh and a few other cities of Afghanistan protesters made gatherings and protest rallies and demanded for punishment of the perpetrators of this murder. The length of these protests were so extensive around the country that even some groups formed in objections of excessive demands following up the murder in different parts of the world (See Appendix, image 6 page 273).

The protestors criticized the action of human rights organizations active in Afghanistan. In addition to these protests, there had been many gathering in America, Canada, Australia, Germany, Finland, India, Iran and Pakistan showing solidarity for Farkhunda. The protestors demanded the punishment of all the murderers of Farkhunda from the government of Afghanistan. Najie Afshari who is one of the organizers of the protests gatherings criticized the action of Human rights organizations in Afghanistan on Saturday, 28th March 2015 in Hamburg and accused the lack of sincerity of performance in fragile societies such as Afghanistan. She


pointed out that the international aids and actions should not be limited to conduct couple of conferences (www.dw.com).

The death of Farkhunda had become a turning point for women involvement and had expanded their activities in and outside of the country. She became the symbol of innocence of women in Afghanistan and the hash tag of ―I am Farkhunda‖ was circulated around social networks as a sign of protest numerously since. President of Afghanistan ‗Asharf Ghani‘had personally ordered for resolving the issues and finding the culprits of the incident (nbcnews.com).

The Home Ministry later reported that all culprits involving with the incident were arrested and 13 police officers got suspended. Of 49 suspects who were arrested, three got twenty years of imprisonment, 13 people received sixteen years of imprisonment and one person sentenced to ten years in prison. After this declaration, Farkhunda‘s mother disappointed from the result had sent out a video clip saying: Justice for Afghan woman buried with Farkhunda. The family of Farkhunda alongside with some irate women condemned police for their incapability. Many citizens and social activists denounced the administration for ignoring the justice and consequently the president had to order to revalue the results again (8am.af).

The incident had many international reactions as well. European Nation had condemned the attack. The United States also condemned the murder of Farkhunda by issuing a statement and demanding to fulfill the justice for her from their embassy in Kabul so that these kinds of horrific act never occur in future.

Many women stated that the, we will support the Government of Afghanistan in preserving the gains of Afghan women over the past 13 years and continuing to promote rule of law, prevent gender-based violence, and take steps toward gender equality. Afghan women, like women around the world, have the right to live their lives free from fear of harassment, insecurity, and the threat of violence. They were committed to working with civil society, as well as the Government of Afghanistan, to make that vision a reality (kabul.usembassy.gov).

Even some Islamic figures in Afghanistan demonstrated their reaction and announced that killing people even in the pretext of defending religion is not acceptable. Following the murder of "Farkhunda‖ the process of removing charm


writers and witches from Kabul started, and the Ministry of Haj Afghanistan accompanied the religious leaders in doing that as well. But ultimately they announced that based on statistics of the Haj ministry, currently 160 thousand mosque are active throughout Afghanistan. Among them only 3,700 of these mosques are working under the supervision of the Ministry and the government has no control over the rest of the mosques and their Imams. Witches in mosques are practicing against the rules of Islam and trick people (news.nationalpost.com).

Roshan Siren, a former member of parliament, said ―that the murder highlights violence against women in the country, and has become a rallying point for a younger generation of women to campaign for "the protection and progress of women‖

(equaltimes.org). 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.

In popular blogs such as the ‗Afghan citizens‘, ‗Shiddokht‘, ‗Ashena‘ and

‗Shahrnoosh‘ they talked about Farkhunda with deep sorrow and the influence her words can be seen in the protests, memorials and even death anniversary of Farkhunda , also in banners on the street that simulate her death. In Shahrnoosh blog, Manizha Bakhtari wrote that her Farkhunda‘s death was because of her gender only, because a woman stood against a man and defended the religion, so according to tradition she deserves the punishment. A summary of her blog reads as below:

In a war affected country that thirty five years of war and crisis took the life of millions of its citizens, and horrible experiences of invasion of the outsiders and civil wars has shaken its foundation, the murder a young girl because of apostasy and burning Quran by a bunch of educated youth and teenagers in the center of Kabul, just a kilometer away from the presidential palace and in front of the armed police, is the ugliest and most detested among all the other disasters that has happened before (shaharnosh.blogfa.com).

What should be the concern and point of serious worrying is the unspeakable violence and reaction of some young generation men and their participation in the cruel murder of Farkhunda . On the other hand, the deeper layers of this terrible murder is questioning the social, educational and training system of Afghanistan and the role of the family in raising them. Incorrect reading of Islam and religious training, economic ravages, poverty, unemployment and lack of healthy


entertainment, respect for other human beings, lack of value to women and the violence against them are the root cause of such events and must be dealt immediately.

Those who stoned Farkhunda were urban youth equipped with smart phones and were connected to the global village. The young generation on whom people of Afghanistan had high hopes for them in building the new Afghanistan, had ended the life of girl who believed in what they believed with extremism, fanaticism, judgment and ignorance by the claim of a lowbrow mullah. This bunches of youth that were following their entertainment, violence and display of sexual complex are in fact the young generation of Afghanistan. They used the torture of a girl as a scene to ridicule her and display their stand and power to the entire city.

The blogger points out that she did not want to make this painful episode to be a one way event and feminine and without a doubt any man could be in this position;

but undoubtedly if there was a man instead of Farkhunda, he would be murdered differently. Basically attacking a man even being guilty cannot bring this passion and excitement to the mob. The gender of Farkhunda played a role to her tortures. The tendency of the mob to a women and feminine figure of a victim made them even more uncivilized to show their dominance in the framework of the religious feelings (shaharnosh.blogfa.com).

In analyzing these phrases and similar blogs of various authors regarding this issue, we can understand that maybe the religious feelings was not the initiator of the event but after a few minutes, what extended this tragedy was the deep rooted feeling of anti-women feelings, sexual feelings, dominance, willingness to torture and playing a hero by young males who were just the regular citizens of Kabul and these deep anti female emotions are deeply rooted in the society.

The enthusiasm from touching a female‘s body, looking at the body for the first time, taking out her veil, touching her body and having her and controlling over her were among the main factors of attacking her in the first place. What excited the mob of twenty to forty wild men to throw stone to a girl and touch her was not blasphemy and burning Quran but the excitement of watching a woman and displaying psychological projection of deep violence rooted in the layers of their social life and private life.


Entertainment, mocking and fulfilling the inner violence had made the mob so charged and wild that they kept stoning the lifeless body of Farkhunda ran over her body by car and finally setting her body on fire. This made women very angry and they spoke about it in the blogs. Which the men involved in this murder found this exciting. Women found a lot of freedom through their blogs to question the men and patriarchy at large.

One of major issues of Afghanistan is conducting field trial by religious mullahs that happens in small cities and villages as soon as a suspect caught is without an investigation and even informing the higher authorities, the verdict is issued by the mullah or the most powerful man on the region and the verdict is acted upon med immediately at that place. This form of executing the law prevailed more often after the Taliban regime, announcing the death of many in every city and any street. Lack of authorities‘ power over the far distant regions had given the opportunity to the armed men and Taliban to rule the region as they wish (aihrc.org).

After the murder of Farkhunda, a big question rose from the social activists for women and when that was followed by all bloggers and justice seekers for Farkhunda, the question turned into a nationwide question mark. The question was that can Afghan citizens use the religious sentiments, and proceed with conducting the law without a witness or a judge even if the person is accused of blasphemy or even burning Quran? Can a citizen issue the apostasy verdict?

The religious Authority and some religious fundamentalist who in fact hasn‘t any scientific or official education about religion and taking advantage of common man‘s illiteracy and lack of knowledge were challenged by this question. Other demands of the movement were for revisiting religion, proper education of Islam by those educated in the same field and removing superstitions that must be in the priority agenda of the internal policy of Afghanistan. But by and large there was a focus on women‘s right.

After the incident, Farkhunda turned to a collective voice of the nation. A voice that invites Afghanistan to reading and re-reading of religious, Institution of law, respecting the regulations of the state, respect for women and observed the principles of the citizen.