In February 2024 Associated Press (AP) reported on a number of public executions by the Taliban in a sports stadium in Shibirghan, northern Afghanistan. 

Severe punishments in public such as executions, floggings and stonings are commonplace in that country. Both men and women have been publicly flogged for committing ‘immoral acts’.

Under Taliban rule, women and girls are subjected to severe restrictions on their freedom and rights, including education. The Taliban banned women and girls from attending school and receiving formal education beyond a certain age, denying women the opportunity to pursue higher education and limiting their access to knowledge and skills. 

Women who defy these restrictions face severe punishment, including public floggings and, in some cases, even execution. Women’s and girls’ dress codes are strictly enforced, requiring women to wear burqas in public. Women are also prohibited from working outside the home or participating in most aspects of public life.

A headline in The Guardian (29 March 2024) reads: ‘Taliban edict to resume stoning women to death met with horror’. The article goes on to say: ‘The Taliban’s announcement that it is resuming publicly stoning women to death has been enabled by the international community’s silence’, human rights groups have said.

The Taliban’s supreme leader reinstated the enforcing of sharia law, which involves stoning of women for adultery, and also the public flogging of women.

Since assuming power in August 2021, the Taliban has abolished Afghanistan’s western-backed constitution and criminal codes, replacing them with its own strict interpretation of sharia law, while also targeting female lawyers and judges because of their prior roles. Afghan activist Samira Hamidi condemned the Taliban’s recent endorsement of public stoning for women as a clear violation of international human rights laws, rendering Afghan women defenceless. Taliban-appointed judges have ordered 417 public floggings and executions in the past year, including 57 women, and have had individuals publicly executed in stadiums in Jawzjan and Ghazni provinces, encouraging attendance but prohibiting filming or photographing of the floggings and executions.

This resurgence of medieval punishments underscores the fragility of those hard-won gains and the vulnerability of marginalised groups in the absence of robust international support. Activists argue that the primary reason behind the Taliban’s brazen move is the lack of external pressure and demands for accountability, which leaves the regime to feel emboldened and to impose its draconian interpretation of Sharia law without fear of repercussions.

The public stoning of women to death sends a chilling message, not only to the people of Afghanistan but also to the world at large about the dire consequences of abandoning vulnerable populations to the mercy of extremists like the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qa’eda, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and Hamas. 

While this fades from world headlines, Iran’s support for terrorist groups and its own human rights record must take centre stage.  For the last four decades, Iran has been under the rule of a theocratic and misogynistic regime, where women’s rights are systematically suppressed and violated. 

University students and brave schoolgirls alike have faced brutality from security forces, leading to mass arrests of thousands of protesters, including journalists, and the deaths of hundreds. Among these tragedies was the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was arrested by the morality police for not wearing her hijab (head scarf) properly.

In 1986 Soraya Manutchehri (35) was falsely accused of adultery by her husband, who wanted to marry a younger woman. The accusation stemmed from Soraya’s refusal to grant him a divorce. Despite Soraya’s innocence, she was subjected to a sham trial in a misogynistic society that favoured her husband’s word over hers. This led to her being stoned to death, a brutal act of injustice that highlighted the systemic oppression faced by women in certain cultural contexts. This tragedy was brought to life in the internationally acclaimed Iranian film ‘The Stoning of Soraya M.’ screened in 2008.

Such cruel punishments exacerbate the already precarious situation for women living within extremist groups, who face systemic discrimination and violence on a daily basis. It perpetuates a cycle of fear and subjugation, marginalising women and depriving them of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Where are South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor, UNHCR’s Navi Pillay, Professor Thuli Madonsela, or the ANC Women’s League? We often see them taking centre stage at the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and other forums. 

However, in the face of the barbarity of women being stoned to death, they seem absent and unheard. Pandor hosted the Iranian foreign minister, Dr Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in Pretoria in August 2023. She had a reciprocal visit to Tehran on 22 October 2023 where she met with the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian. 

In 1988 Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, ordered the execution of members and supporters of the main opposition group, the banned People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (MEK). Raisi sat as deputy prosecutor general in a four-member committee codenamed the ‘death commission’ charged with carrying out the fatwa. Thousands of political prisoners were murdered.

At the event held by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on 19 March 2024, Pandor said that she does have concerns about women’s rights in Iran, and said she had raised the issue with Iran’s foreign minister.

Neither the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s  formal joint communiqué on the August 2023 visit, nor its media statement about the October 2023 visit to Iran, mention her raising concerns about women’s rights in Iran.

Maybe she did it, some other time.  

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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Allan Wolman, in 1967 joined 1200 young South Africans to volunteer to work on agricultural settlements in Israel during the Six Day War. After spending a year in Israel, he returned to South Africa where he met and married Jocelyn Lipschitz and have three sons and 5 grandchildren. Ran one of the oldest travel agencies in Johannesburg, Rosebank Travel and co-founder of XL Travel Group. Allan and Jocelyn immigrated to Israel five years ago.