The Satchel Review - Saturday 13 July, 2012

Two-thousand years since Jesus walked the earth and said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", it's hard to imagine that a woman might be killed for an adulterous act in a callous and calculated way in public, but so it is in Afghanistan. 

Shot at point-blank range in broad daylight, 22-year-old Najiba met her fate at the hands of Islamist extremists in Qol village north of Kabul, as 150 spectators looked on. Najiba was married to a hardline Taliban commander and accused of adultery with another commander. 

She was convicted of her crime within an hour. A man read from the Koran as she crouched beside a ditch covered in a grey burqua: "We cannot forgive her. God tells us to finish her,” the man said. "Juma Khan, her husband, has the right to kill her."

The Afghan government has condemned the execution, but it's clear that archaic and brutal Islamic practises have not been stamped out by the occupation following the September 11 attacks in 2001. The Taliban first took Kabul in 1996 imposing their strict social laws after the country collapsed into civil war in 1992 and the Taliban rose to power out of the anarchy.

American troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, while Australian troops are wrapping up their tour of duty at the end of 2013. Earlier this month, Sergeant Blaine Diddams, of the elite Swanbourne-based Special Air Services Regiment (SASR), was killed during his seventh tour of duty to Afghanistan. He was the 33rd casualty since 2001.

At a meeting of the international community in Tokyo, Australian foreign minister Bob Carr committed $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan. In response to Najiba's killing, British foreign secretary William Hague said, "Such deplorable actions underline the vital need for better protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan."

Senator Carr pledged his commitment to reducing domestic and community violence against women in Afghanistan with $17.7 million to change community attitudes and reduce the rate of retribution attacks for female participation in society.

“We’ve made progress on women’s health and education – these additional funds would improve female safety and access to a fair interpretation of the law," Senator Carr wrote on his Thoughtlines blog.

One of the worst countries in the world in which to be born female, the life expectancy for women in Afghanistan is 44 years of age. According to a 2010 report, 2300 Afghan women or girls attempted suicide mainly because of poverty, mental illness and domestic violence. Adult women's literacy rates are 12 per cent.

Much of Afghanistan's economy, and the survival of the Taliban insurgency, is dependent on the drug trade, more particularly opium. According to a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the total value of the Afghan opiate economy is estimated at roughly $2.4 billion (in U.S. dollars), equivalent to 15 percent of the country’s licit GDP.

A story on Afghanistan's "Opium Girls" due to air on Four Corners Monday night shows how the drug trafficking trade affects uneducated rural farmers and their daughters who have become a tradeable commodity, a way to settle debts with the drug smugglers. It's said the poppy trade is growing.

With the Tour de France tainted with the whiff of drug allegations, it's clear we have another global problem to deal with. As one checkout lad put it to me in a pun on the demise of Darrell Lea, which came as Brett Lee declared his baggy green would be put away after taking 718 wickets, "It's a rocky road ahead". 

Girl With a Satchel