A 27-year-old teacher of Islamic studies who was killed by a bloodthirsty mob in Kabul on Thursday has become an unlikely symbol for government accountability and Islamic reform in Afghanistan.
The woman, known by the single name Farkhunda, got into a dispute with a salesman peddling trinkets to superstitious women who visited an Islamic shrine, and thereby wasting their money. In response, the man accused her of burning the Quran. A crowd of men then proceeded to beat her, throw her from a rooftop and run her over with a car before setting her on fire.
Police were reportedly on the scene but failed to stop the crowd.
At her funeral Sunday, Afghan women flouted tradition by insisting on carrying her coffin themselves to the grave. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday and Monday wore paper masks of her bloody face, taken from images captured during her assault on bystanders’ cell phone cameras.
According to the government investigator leading the case, there was no evidence that Farkhunda actually burned the Quran, and that she was therefore “totally innocent.”
While her family had originally claimed that she was mentally impaired, they have since revealed that her father “was frightened and made the false statement to calm people down.” Instead, she was a teacher of Islamic studies, and reportedly told her accusers, “I am a Muslim and Muslims do not burn the Quran.”
As an activist told The Washington Post, Farkhunda was a “woman who was smart, and pious and very dedicated to Islam.”
According to Afghan authorities, 18 individuals have been detained for the attack so far, and 13 policeman have been suspended for failing to protect Farkhunda.
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