“When are you going to write about Farkhunda?” my daughter Gayley asked me. Today.
I hadn’t written about the 27-year-old woman who was beaten to death two weeks ago in Kabul because I had nothing to add to yet another story of murderous fanaticism and the diminished lives of women in the Middle East. This one seemed particularly horrific: I pictured a deranged woman wandering in rags, muttering incoherently, maniacally setting fire to a book, suddenly set on by a frenzied mob.
Like too many news stories these days, everything I knew turned out to be wrong. Everything and yet nothing. Farkhunda was not mentally ill, although her terrified family said she was. She was a law student who became incensed at the behavior of mullahs selling worthless charms to the gullible poor. She condemned the men, was falsely accused, and killed. Another victim.
Then I watched the video: young men with boots, sticks and boulders snuff out Farkhunda, as others cheer, laugh and record her death on their cell phones. It is a celebration.
I don’t know why Farkhunda baited the mullahs in their den. But her life reminds me that women are more than victims in much of the world. From the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to Malala Yousafzai to Pussy Riot to the Chinese feminists, they are those with the courage to confront the bullies.
Not long ago we debated women in combat, failing to acknowledge how often they are on the front lines.