Ten years ago today, in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, 30,000 people witnessed an alleged murderer shot to death by the victim’s brother at Kabul’s national stadium.
The Taliban had held Kabul for little more than a year at this point, and this sort of ostentatious shari’a execution was still a novelty. Amnesty International reported that loudspeakers summoned people to the stadium expressly to witness the execution (and the subsequent flogging of an accused rapist), and that the victim’s family refused the pleas of the crowd to spare Khan’s life.
Amnesty also excerpted a translated Taliban Radio report of the event.
The occasion of applying Shari’a law to a murderer in Kabul Stadium today was attended by a number of high ranking officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and thousands of Kabul people. First some verses from the Koran were recited .. Deputy Court Martial .. Mawlawi Sayd Abdul Rahman Agha .. in turn spoke about the implementation of Allah’s order on Allah’s earth to criminals in order that other criminals should take an example from it. .. Subsequently Esteemed Abdul Nasir Nastier, an official of radio television introduced the criminal and read out the court martial’s decision. After reading out the court martial’s decision Bahram Khan, son of Mohsin Khan, citizen of Bagrami district of Kabul Province, who had killed Asadullah, son of Neck Mohammad on the night of 28th-29th of Sonbola [19th-20th September] this year .. was executed before thousands of Kabul people.
A convicted murderer was executed in a Kabul football stadium Friday — shot in the head and chest by the victim’s brother — despite a plea for mercy from a crowd of thousands. It was the 3rd public execution under the new Taliban regime, whose harsh brand of justice makes many Afghanis uneasy. That opposition was reflected Friday by the fact that even the judge in the case joined the effort to spare Bahram Khan’s life.
“Let him live!” the crowd shouted as Khan’s hands were bound behind his back and he was removed from the pickup truck that carried him into the arena. But the victim’s father, Nek Mohammed, strode to the microphone. “We won’t forgive him. If we let him live he will kill again. We know this man.”
While executions took place in Afghanistan before the Taliban’s takeover last year, the army of former Islamic seminarians has added several new twists. For example, it has curtailed defendants’ right to appeal rulings and gives the families of murder victims the option of carrying out a court-imposed death sentence or granting mercy.
It wasn’t immediately clear Friday whether the crowd’s intervention on behalf of Khan stemmed from general objections to such forms of punishment or was based on the particulars of the case. At any rate, it was fruitless. Khan’s executioner jumped up onto the truck and quickly dispatched one bullet into Khan’s head and another into the 29-year-old’s chest. Khan crumpled to the ground.
Khan’s body was carried and another man was pushed onto the field and given 100 lashes for raping a woman last year. In addition to the executions, the Taliban has also begun public amputations of hands and feet, an Islamic punishment for theft.
The Taliban religious militia overran the capital of Kabul in 1996 and now controls 85% of the country. Afghanistan’s former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, heads an anti-Taliban alliance of minority ethnic groups that is fighting the Islamic army on several fronts.