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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Statement of Co-Chairmen on Woman Burned in Kabul for Allegations of Blasphemy

Mar 24, 2015
Press Release
As Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we condemn the brutal murder of a woman known as Farkhunda by a mob in Kabul on March 19, 2015. The mob, comprised largely of men, beat her, set her on fire and threw her body in the Kabul River for allegedly burning the Quran, according to reports.

No evidence has surfaced to substantiate the claim that Farkhunda destroyed the Quran. Furthermore, there is evidence that Farkhunda may have suffered from psychological or mental disorders.

We welcome the statements made by President Ghani and the investigations he has ordered into the killing. We also welcome the international condemnation that has followed. However, this horrific incident reveals the unfortunate climate that has developed with respect to religious tolerance and the rights of women in Afghanistan and the region. Violence against women often goes unpunished in Afghanistan, despite constitutional guarantees of equality. Also, while Afghanistan’s constitution commits to observing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it qualifies the constitutional rights of religious minorities, and statutes are in place punishing blasphemy and apostasy.

This horrific and unfortunate act exposes human rights concerns surrounding blasphemy laws, which are often used to target minorities and foster a climate of religious intolerance. In fact, this murder profoundly demonstrates the concerns voiced by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom:

“Blasphemy laws inappropriately position governments as arbiters of truth or religious rightness, as they empower officials to enforce particular religious views against individuals, minorities, and dissenters. In practice, they have proven to be ripe for abuse and easily manipulated with false accusations.”

The proliferation of blasphemy laws across the globe is of great concern to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. We again call on all nations to repeal blasphemy laws and similar statutes that foster religious intolerance. As President Ghani addresses Congress this week, we ask that he publicly commit to bringing the perpetrators of this act to justice and work to secure the rights of minorities and women.

114th Congress