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Erbe: Taliban killing of woman for 'adultery' fuels outrage

Afghan women walk to their homes in Kabul,

Afghan women walk to their homes in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Jan. 4, 2012) Credit: AP

Not enough outrage in your life? Follow the news closely, and you’ll find more than enough stories to stoke outrage. But one news item this week hit me in a part of my soul I heretofore did not know existed and one where I did not know I could harbor that much outrage.

It’s apparently a cellphone video obtained exclusively and posted online by the Reuters news agency, showing Taliban “fighters” executing a woman accused of adultery. A tiny, unarmed woman shrouded in Taliban-dictated shrouds squats in a muddy patch on a dirt road. Her back is facing a crowd of armed, sneering men — Taliban members. She is not allowed to speak the entire time.

The camera also shows a hundred or more villagers, all male, standing in the dirt streets that crisscross the barren hillside. They are hanging out of crude, low apartment buildings.

The Taliban do not allow women to leave home unescorted. This is one of myriad freedoms routinely denied to women, whose meager, miserable existences are lived as little more than sex slaves and brood mares. I cannot imagine a worse fate in this day and age than to be a girl born under Taliban control, powerless, penniless, abused and dismissed.

The governor of Parwan Province, where the murder took place, told CNN the woman was 22 years old and married to a Taliban commander. She was accused of adultery.

Women under Islamic hard-line rule are frequently accused of adultery they did not commit. Men who have in fact raped a woman will get her charged with adultery to place the focus for revenge on the woman, not the man. There have even been situations in which a jealous husband accuses his wife of adultery and sees to her execution when she has committed no crime.

The tape concludes with one man saying, “Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it’s the wrong way.” Another says, “It’s the command of Allah that she be executed.” A militant takes an automatic rifle and stands perhaps a foot away from the woman’s back. He fires nine shots into her and the crowd erupts in a series of cheers.

There is a manhunt on for the members of this kangaroo court, and with any luck Afghanistan troops will find the men responsible. It’s too bad, in a way, that Afghanistan will give the perpetrators a fairer disbursement of justice than the Taliban gave to the woman they slaughtered.

I wish the United States government would take more seriously the treatment of women in other societies. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, much to her credit, has taken women’s rights to a new level as a matter of U.S. foreign policy.

A society’s attitude toward its women, and a government’s treatment of them, speak volumes. The Taliban’s outrageous cruelty toward this woman merits more serious intervention on our part.

Bonnie Erbe, a TV host, writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.

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