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Afghanistan lynching stokes anger against 'fake mullahs'


Last Updated: April 22, 2015, 15:07 IST

Afghanistan lynching stokes anger against 'fake mullahs'

Farkhunda killing, which triggered protests around Afghanistan and several world cities, drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women

Kabul: The savage lynching of an Afghan woman who railed openly against superstitious practices has stoked public anger over the treatment of women but also ignited revulsion against Kabul's ubiquitous shamans, forcing them to go underground. In March 19, a furious mob turned on Farkhunda, 27, beating her in broad daylight and setting her body ablaze on the banks of the Kabul River after an amulet seller, whom she had castigated, falsely accused her of blasphemy.

Farkhunda killing, which triggered protests around Afghanistan and several world cities, drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women, while her funeral procession saw female pallbearers bucking tradition to carry her casket.

But the "Justice for Farkhunda" movement, as it is known, is not about women's rights alone."Down with ignorance" has been a familiar chant at protests denouncing her killing, which has prompted public sentiment to turn against Kabul's "healers" peddling amulets, talismans and good luck charms. "Not every man who wears a turban is a religious scholar," Daiulhaq Abid, Afghanistan's Deputy Minister for Religious affairs, told reporters. Diulhaq Abid said his investigation revealed that the amulet seller falsely accused Farkhunda -a graduate in Islamic studies- of burning the Koran as her anti-superstition advocacy had been driving away his customers.

Many of Kabul's divine healers went underground even before Abid's ministry launched an unprecedented crackdown in the wake of Farkhunda's killing, shutting down their shops and evicting them from roadside markets. Padlocked stores and vacant roadside stalls have become a familiar sight in the meandering and congested lanes of Murad Khani in Kabul's Old City, one of several hubs where spiritual healers have thrived for decades. The backlash highlights the angst of a post-Taliban generation in Afghanistan- where nearly two-thirds of the population is under 25- that is often torn between conservatism and modernity as the country rebuilds itself after decades of war.

"Farkhunda's death brought a revolution," women's rights activist Belqis Osmani told AFP.

"It shocked everyone, awakened everyone. It warned the traditional-minded people that a new generation is emerging -- a generation that is more educated and open-minded. They are more liberal and they don't fall for tricks of fake mullahs," Belqis Osmani said.

Ahmad Jawad, a 37-year-old Kabul resident, said the "Justice for Farkhunda" movement marked a rare battle in Afghanistan against pervasive ignorance. "I once went to a traditional healer because I was in love with my cousin and wanted to marry her. He gave me some perfume and paper amulets. He instructed me to sprinkle perfume on the amulets and burn them," said Ahmad Jawad.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)
first published:April 22, 2015, 15:07 IST
last updated:April 22, 2015, 15:07 IST