A woman accused of adultery squats in front of a crowd before her public execution in a village outside Kabul in this still image taken from undated video footage.
U.S. and Afghan officials on Sunday condemned the public execution of an Afghan woman accused of adultery, saying her death “is an unambiguous reminder to the Afghan people and the international community of the brutality of the Taliban.”
The woman’s death, which was recorded, shows the woman, named Najiba, crouched, her back to a man identified as her husband. He is handed an AK-47 assault rifle, which he uses to shoot her from behind. By the third shot, she collapses, but he continues to fire 10 more times as about 150 men on a nearby hillside cheer.
The video was obtained by Reuters.
“They are brutal people and like savage animals, they killed another human being,” Basir Salangi, the provincial governor of Parwan Province, told Reuters. The village in Parwan where the execution took place is about an hour north of Kabul, the Afghan capital. “It is clear that they are outlaws and must be delivered into the hands of the law,” he said.
In a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, officials said the U.S. is committed to increasing “awareness of women's rights, to prevent and prosecute acts of violence against women, and to ensure that those responsible for such barbaric acts are brought to justice.”
"This cold-blooded murder, carried out in front of a crowd and recorded on video, is an unambiguous reminder to the Afghan people and the international community of the brutality of the Taliban," the embassy statement said.
Ahmad Jamshid / AP
More than ten years after the beginning of the war, Afghanistan faces external pressure to reform as well as ongoing internal conflicts.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, addressing a world conference on Afghanistan's future, said Sunday: "The United States believes strongly that no nation can achieve peace, stability and economic growth if half the population is not empowered."
Such punishment is a reminder that, although there are 430,000 foreign and Afghan forces on the ground, the Taliban still controls large swaths of the country. Women’s rights activists in Afghanistan told Reuters they worry that violence against women may be on the rise as President Hamid Karzai’s administration focuses on 2014 – the date President Barack Obama has set for pulling out U.S. troops.
Najiba, believed to be a mother, was found guilty of being sexually connected to two Taliban commanders – whether by rape or consensual sex is unclear, Reuters reported. Taliban officials then convened a quick trial and ordered her execution to settle the dispute between the two commanders. The killing occurred in late June.
In the video, before Najiba is shot, a bearded man reads verses from the Quran condemning adultery.
"We cannot forgive her, God tells us to finish her," he says. "Juma Khan, her husband, has the right to kill her."
As Khan approaches Najiba, another man states, "Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it's the wrong way. It is the order of Allah that she be executed."
Men in the crowd watch as a man, who Afghan officials say is a member of the Taliban, fires his rifle at a woman accused of adultery.
Najiba’s execution follows on the heels of the beheading of a 30-year-old woman and her two children last week in eastern Afghanistan by a man police say was her divorced husband. Their deaths, women’s activists told Reuters, is the latest in a string of “honor killings.”
There have been 16 recorded cases of these honor cases in March and April, according to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission; last year, 20 were recorded for the entire year.
Commissioner Suraya Subhrang told Reuters she blamed the sharp rise on increased insecurity and weak rule of law.
"There are many that go unreported,” Subhrang told Reuters. “Men make a quick decision in their own courts to kill a girl and hold a prayer for her the next day."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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