KABUL, Afghanistan — Police officers investigating the double murder of a couple who were stoned to death in a prominent case five months ago could hardly have asked for more abundant evidence.
There were hundreds of witnesses. The date, time and place of the attack were well known, and so were the identities of the killers. The crime had even been captured on cell phone videos, and at least one of the recordings reached the authorities within days.
Now one of those videos showing the full horror of the killings has been broadcast on Afghan television to the shame of Afghan authorities, who have yet to make a single arrest in the deaths of the 19-year-old woman, Siddiqa, and her fiance, Khayyam, 25, who had tried to elope against their families’ wishes.
The broadcast has suddenly prompted at least the appearance of action by the government. Over the weekend, a Ministry of Interior investigating commission arrived in Kunduz province, where the stoning was carried out by the Taliban in a village that has since come back under government control.
The police there admit that they now know the identities of the killers — so does nearly everyone in Kunduz province — but claim that the chief perpetrators have all gone into hiding. But that claim has been questioned because most of the males in the village, Mullah Quli, in the Archi District, took part in the Aug. 15 attack.
Outrage was expressed by many, including human rights groups and the governor of Kunduz province, and the stonings were condemned as both illegal and inhumane.
Only the Taliban, who controlled the village at the time, publicly condoned the killing of Siddiqa and Khayyam, who had a wife and two children.
Contrary to what many think, said Ahmad Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the stoning of adulterers had not been a common practice in Afghanistan – until the Taliban era.
When it has taken place, it has been under strict religious supervision, after a fair trial, with limits set by religious scholars on the size of the stones – they must be small. The stone-throwers are prohibited from lifting their arms above the head to throw.
“It really saddened me to see this video,” said Mollawi Abdullah, a religious elder from the Archi District. “It is right to stone people for doing such things, but stoning has its own rules and laws based on Shariah, and it is not to be done without a legitimate court, and it is not right to stone people unjustly with big, big stones.”