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'Modern' Life In Afghanistan -- Stoned to Death for Being In Love

Earlier today, on the cusp of the second decade of the twenty-first century, the Afghan Taliban treated the world to a display of Islamic (Sharia) law. They proudly sentenced two human beings to be publicly stoned to death by a mob of two hundred men who were only too happy to do so, a mob which included the relatives of both victims as well as bystanders galore. 

The couple’s crime was that of loving each other and wanting to marry. However, the woman refused to marry the relative to whom she had already been promised. Thus, they had both rebelled against cultural, tribal, and religious expectations.

The couple, 25-year-old Khayyam and 19-year-old Siddiqa ran away. Both were lured back home by relatives who promised them that permission would be granted for them to marry. It was a ruse. Once back, they were subjected to Afghan Islamic justice, Taliban-style and were stoned to death. Siddiqa was forced to wear her burqa to her execution.

This must be understood as a cultural honor killing, similar to the Afghan Taliban punishments of women who have fled dangerously abusive and child marriages. The Taliban cuts off their noses and ears—merciful by their standards compared to stoning.

The exquisite but painful film, "The Stoning of Soraya M," is based on a true-life stoning in Iran; the film "Osama," which includes the public stoning of burqa-clad women, is based on what happened when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s. What happened today is reality—and it is coming our way if we allow such thinking to penetrate the West.

Honor killings are sometimes committed by Hindus and Sikhs (but mainly in India, not in the West). In Europe and North America, honor killings are primarily a Muslim-on-Muslim crime. At the end of 2007, in Toronto, Aqsa Parvez was lured home by her mother and then honor murdered by her father and brother. Her crime? Becoming too western, not wearing hijab. 

Early in 2008, Amina and Sarah Said were also lured home by their mother, Tissy, and honor murdered by their father Yasir. Their crime? They had non-Muslim friends, non-Muslim boyfriends, and after years of abuse, had finally run away. Like Siddiqa in Afghanistan, the Said sisters had already been promised to Egyptian men, friends or relatives of their father, who could obtain green cards by marrying American-born citizens.

In the last thirty years, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Turks, the Saudis, the Iranians, and the Egyptians have all engaged in the following atrocities for, from our western point of view, the most minor offenses: stonings, beheadings, hangings, burying young girls alive, amputations, nose and ear chopping, floggings, acid thrown in the faces of young girls for improper veiling. They claim they are doing so in the name of Islam. Anti-Islamist Muslims claim that such punishers are criminals who have hijacked an otherwise peaceful religion.

We had better decide who is right.

Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. is professor emerita of psychology and the author of thirteen books including "Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman" and "The New Anti-Semitism." She has written extensively about Islamic gender apartheid and about honor killings. She once lived in Kabul, Afghanistan. She may be reached through her website: www.phyllis-chesler.com.

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Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D is an emerita professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, a Fellow at the Middle East Forum, she is the author of thousands of articles and of fifteen books, including "Women and Madness," and "An American Bride in Kabul." She archives her articles and may be reached through her website: www.phyllis-chesler.com