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Is the Taliban back? A public execution raises questions on rule of law

An Afghan woman is brutally murdered by cheering Taliban in a viral video.
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This screenshot shows a member of the Taliban shooting a woman (huddled) at point-blank range, while others look on. (Screengrab)

Afghan authorities have promised to track down and punish members of the Taliban responsible for the horrific public execution of a woman accused of infidelity after a video of the incident went viral. 

Taken last month (some say June 23, according to the New York Times), the video shows a group of apparent Taliban members cheering as a member of the posse shoots nine rounds into a woman in broad daylight. Some onlookers cheer as well. 

As it swept the internet, the video has left shock and dismay in its wake, and raises important questions about the Taliban's second wind and the future of women and girls in Afghanistan. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Tokyo this weekend for ongoing talks with the heads of allied governments about the future of Afghanistan, and the expected 2014 troop pull-out was a topic of discussion. Many worry what might happen when international forces leave and the women and girls of the country are left to fend off a newly resurgent Taliban. 

She also announced that US contribution to an overall $16 billion of aid pledged by foreign countries through 2015 will have strings attached.

"That must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, increasing access to economic opportunity for all Afghans, especially for women," Clinton said.

More from GlobalPost: Afghan women's rights may hinge on Tokyo Conference

President Hamid Karzai has stated firmly that "such crimes are unforgivable both in Islam and under our country's laws," in a statement from his press office, and has ordered security forces to track down those responsible and bring them to justice, according to CNN. 

And although gains have been made in the years since the US-led invasion began, women and girls still face immense obstacles and this video only makes the issue all the more obvious. 

Some believe the video is documenting an honor killing, which are still a big problem in rural areas of the region. It's been suggested by CNN that the woman in the video had affairs with two rival members of the Taliban, and they resolved the dispute by murdering her. 

The New York Times, however, has three alternate stories to explain who the woman was and why she was so brutally killed. 

More from GlobalPost: NATO: Women's rights must be part of future plans in Afghanistan

In the video, Taliban members can be heard saying that the executioner is the woman’s husband, though Afghan officials offered conflicting accounts of what transpired in the village, Qol-i-Heer.

Colonel Masjidi [Colonel Masjidi, like many Afghans, uses a single name] said the woman’s real husband was a member of a village militia that had slain a local Taliban leader. The woman was executed in revenge on trumped up charges of adultery, he said.

Roshna Khalid, a spokeswoman for the provincial government, said the woman was killed for having multiple affairs with Taliban fighters. Ms. Khalid said the woman’s name was Najiba, and that she was in her 20s and did not have children.

A third official, Qari Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, a member of the provincial council, said the woman had run off with a Taliban commander, who in turn was accused of passing information to government forces.

It is still unknown whether those in the video will be held responsible. The Taliban's return to power in a number of areas could be an indication that the rule of law as it is understood by the United States no longer has influence in Afghanistan. 

For more of GlobalPost's continued coverage of women and girls in Afghanistan, check out our Special Report "Life Sentence: Women & Justice in Afghanistan."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/taliban-woman-public-execution-rule-of-law