In Honor of Farkhunda Malikzada

February, 2018

Source images:

Front: (1) Farkhunda Malikzada’s portrait. (2) Mosque of Mazar-e-Sharif (The Noble Shrine). (3) Afghani banknotes.

Back: (1) Afghan women’s right activists carrying Farkhunda’s coffin in Kabul on March 22nd, 2015, breaking the custom of not participating in funerals or burial ceremonies. Women tied their scarves together to lower the coffin into the grave. Photography: Massoud Hossaini. (2) Great Mosque of Herat. (3) Afghani banknotes.

TRIGGER WARNING: Story contains information about assault and violence which may be triggering to survivors.

Farkhunda was a 27-year-old observant muslim and volunteer teacher who studied theology. On March 19th, 2015, she was falsely accused of blasphemy and was publicly lynched in front of Shah-Do Shamshira Mosque, where she taught religious studies. A street vendor who was selling taweez (a religious trinket with inscriptions from the Quran) in front of the shrine was confronted by Farkhunda. She argued that the charms promoted un-Islamic superstition.

Offended by Farkhunda’s audacity, the vendor started yelling that she’d burnt the Quran. A crowd converged and hundreds of angry men publicly assaulted her. Police attempted to control the crowd, but eventually stood aside as the crowd brutally beat, stomped on, and stoned her to death. They then dragged her body through the streets of Kabul, ran her over with a car, set her on fire, and finally dumped her in the water.

Many witnesses, including police officials, passively watched this horrific attack. Several filmed it, but no one made any attempts to intervene. Videos of her assault circulated widely on social media and brought national and international attention to this case. There were more than 49 arrests over Farkhunda’s death, but few convictions. The few sentenced, including police officers who neglected their duties, later had their sentences reduced significantly.

Violence against women in Afghanistan remains largely unreported and there has been a longstanding cultural/religious bias against women. Following the death of Farkhunda, women’s right activists Rahela Sidiqi formed Farkhunda Trust, an organization dedicated to fighting systemic gender discrimination and offering safe spaces for women to pursue their education. Farkhunda Trust provides scholarships and mentoring to exceptional female students in Afghanistan.

Foreign Exchange incorporates the emblems taken from banknotes and utilizes images from news media to highlight voices of resistance from countries that have been impacted by U.S. national interests. The banknotes feature influential figures and monumental events that draw attention to socio-political tensions existing both within a country’s borders and beyond. Foreign Exchange offers an alternative platform to archive and share cultural currencies.