The Taliban on Sunday ordered their first public executions by stoning since their fall from power nine years ago, killing a young couple who had unsuccessfully tried to elope, according to Afghan officials and an eyewitness.
The punishment was carried out by hundreds of the victims’ neighbors and even their family members in a village in northern Kunduz Province, according to Nadir Khan, 40, a local farmer and Taliban sympathizer, who was interviewed by telephone.
As a Taliban mullah prepared to read the judgment of a religious “court,” Mr. Khan said the lovers, a 25-year-old man named Khayyam and a 19-year-old woman named Siddiqa, defiantly confessed in public to their relationship. “They said, ‘We love each other no matter what happens,’ ” Mr. Khan said.
The executions were the latest in a series of cases where the Taliban have imposed their harsh version of Shariah law for social crimes, reminiscent of their behavior during their decade-long rule of the country. In recent years Taliban officials have sought to play down their bloody punishments of the past as they concentrated on building up popular support.
“We see it as a sign of a new confidence on the part of the Taliban in the application of their rules, like they did in the ’90s,” said Nader Nadery, a senior commissioner on Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. “We do see it as a trend, they’re showing more strength in recent months, not just in attacks, but including their own way of implementing laws, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings.”
The stoning deaths, along with similarly brazen attacks in northern Afghanistan, were also a sign of growing Taliban strength in parts of the country where until recently they had been weak or absent. In their home regions in southern Afghanistan, Mr. Nadery said, the Taliban have already been cracking down. “We’ve seen a big increase in intimidation of women and more strict rules on women,” he said.
Afghanistan is hell now. But it would probably be worse if we left.