REPORTER: Yalda Hakim Driving out of Charikar is a journey towards darkness. We're on our way to the scene of the Taliban execution. I'm travelling with Haji Abdul Hussein, police chief of the area where the killing occurred. REPORTER (Translation): What do the police do to ensure women’s safety in the area?
HAJI ABDUL HUSSEIN (Translation): What should they do? REPORTER (Translation): Yes.
HAJI ABDUL HUSSEIN (Translation): Our police are actually not properly equipped to fight the enemy in this region. The number of police in the area must be increased and they must be equipped to take on the enemy and prevent such tragediesThe village is only an hour from the capital, but we might as well be travelling back five centuries. The Taliban hold sway just beyond the mountains. It's not possible for me to come here without this heavily armed escort. But despite all the weapons and 100,000 foreign troops in the country, it's too dangerous to go any further. For security reasons we can't move beyond this point. But just behind that mountain over there is where 22-year-old Najiba was killed. The Taliban created a fake court, and, once they decided she was guilty, executed her within an hour. The grainy video shows the woman, Najiba, awaiting her fate. Moments before her execution, she looks over her shoulder, towards the person filming. The last person she will ever see. Today there's an opportunity to find out more about this outrage. This is Mullah Badam. He lives in the same village and was an eyewitness to the killing.
MULLAH BADAM (Translation): A man called Mullah Abdul Khaliq was there, he read a false verse from the Qur’an, which was not at all relevant to this situation. He said that based on that verse, she should be executed. It was tyrannical and barbaric – it is impossible that the law would allow what they did. The guards are amazed that the Mullah is prepared to speak out. Many have been killed by the Taliban for far less.
MULLAH BADAM (Translation): Let me tell you that thousands of women are suffering under their tyrannical rule. It is not only Najiba. This brave man has more chilling information. REPORTER (Translation): Do you know the men who killed her?
MULLAH BADAM (Translation): Yes. Yes, I do. REPORTER (Translation): One was her husband?
MULLAH BADAM (Translation): Yes. Her husband shot her at the command of Mullah Khaliq. Before each shot there was a command and it was given by Mullah Khaliq. We can't stay long here. It's too risky. Travelling back to the safety of the police base, I find that the video which was played around the world was obtained through insiders in the village. REPORTER (Translation): So capturing this on video and showing it to the world wasn’t just a coincidence?
HAJI ABDUL HUSSEIN (Translation): No, not at all. The people in this area wanted to show it to the world so they can see terrorists are in the area killing them. The journey out here has been worthwhile. But I want to know more about Najiba - a woman dying in front of an audience of men.
FAWZIA KOOFI, VICE PRESIDENT AFGHAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (Translation): Hello. Looks like the Governor has a lot of guests today. And this woman is determined to bring the perpetrators to justice.
FAWZIA KOOFI: Hi. It's Fawzia Koofi, Member of Parliament.
MAN (Translation): He is the head of ISAF security in Parwan province. Fawzia Koofi is the Deputy Speaker of the Afghan Parliament and intends to run against Hamid Karzai in the next election. The 37-year-old is an outspoken advocate for women's rights, a dangerous position in a country where women are seldom heard.
FAWZIA KOOFI (Translation): There are two other journalists coming. Please let them in. She quickly puts the representative of foreign forces on notice.
FAWZIA KOOFI: You are from which country? US Army? OK. So what is your plan for conducting operations in Shinwari to arrest the people who committed the murder of this woman without trial?
SOLDIER: We'll continue to work with the Afghan police and Afghan Army, with the ANP and ANA in league at the governor’s direction. And wants to hear the Governor's response to the killing.
GOVERNOR (Translation): We need to organise a better plan for Najiba’s case. It should be a joint operation by the defence and interior forces and the national security forces will also need to participate. Unfortunately, up until now, the operation hasn’t been organised or actually taken place. But Fawzia Koofi says even though the police have fought in that area, President Karzai won't send in the army.
FAWZIA KOOFI: That place has Taliban and Karzai has some sympathy with them. And there are some political figures from that area, who are in government and they don't allow operations. So basically women's rights are a matter of sacrifice when it comes to politics. Hamid Karzai's office rejects these allegations, describing them as baseless. Now we're off to visit another woman from the same village, who narrowly escaped the same fate at Najiba. But it's not just poor women who are at risk. Fawzia describes how she survived an assassination attempt. Something she has learned to make light of.
FAWZIA KOOFI: Because it was like bullets everywhere. My bodyguards were also shooting from their window, when they were targeting them. It was a very funny moment, because I tried to hide myself under the seat and my daughters were sitting here, because I just wanted them to be safe. And so I put myself here under the seat and then I realised that the driver is going out of control. Um, so I sit back and said, "OK, whatever happens. I'm not going to die because of car accident." I wanted to know what she thought of Najiba's execution. She says Afghan society has been corrupted by fundamentalism and war.
FAWZIA KOOFI: In cases like this, you bring a woman and especially she is very defenceless, you bring her out and kill her in front of everybody’s eyes and people cheer it and they say “Allahu Akbar” and they cheer it. That is not part of our identity, I think this is an important phenomenon due to war. It is an imported element of war. This compound is on the edge of town, about 20 minutes from where Najiba was killed. Mina, not her real name, is from the same village. She's being sheltered here by her relatives. The Taliban murdered her husband, accusing him of being a traitor and working for the Afghan government. Then it was Mina's turn. They dragged her past her husband's corpse. REPORTER (Translation): Do you think they’d have killed you in the same way as Najiba?
MINA (Translation): Yes. That’s how they wanted to kill me. Twice I was separated from the others with a gun aimed at me. Another Talib said “She is pregnant, it’s a sin…. Kill her once the baby is born.” In the dead of night, Mina managed to escape the village with her seven children. REPORTER (Translation): Could you tell me something about Najiba? About her looks, her character, her personality?
MINA (Translation): She lived a long way from me, every time she visited her mother I would see her on the way. She was so beautiful, such a warm person, I’ve never met a more honest person in the area. Mina believes Najiba ran away from her husband and was sacrificed to preserve the dignity of the two men who both claimed ownership of her. REPORTER (Translation): Was there a relationship with another man?
MINA (Translation): Not at all, the reason was Najiba’s escape from home. As a survivor, Mina knows the terrible life of women in a village like Shinwari, where 2,000 people are terrorised by a handful of Taliban. REPORTER (Translation): Has this happened to other women in the past?
MINA (Translation): They can’t ask a man for a divorce. They are too scared. REPORTER (Translation): Have other women been killed like this?
MINA (Translation): Baitullah’s wife was one who they killed this way, they chopped her into pieces. REPORTER (Translation): When was that?
MINA (Translation): 3 or 4 months before Najiba.
FAWZIA KOOFI: To reduce this kind of violence, we need to have strong commitments from the government, which is not there. We don't see perpetrators of human rights violation being put on trial and receiving the required punishment they are supposed to receive. We leave Mina behind, with a promise from Koofi that she will be given the chance of a new life in the capital. Today is a special occasion for the province and its powerbrokers. These men have come to honour the memory of legendary Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. His fighters have long been bitter enemies of the Taliban. With foreign forces leaving soon, it will be up to them to try and keep the fundamentalists out of power.
SPEAKER (Translation): The freedom of our nation is the basis of our religion, that responsibility has now been passed on to us. The police chief who escorted me out near Najiba's village is here, as is his commander, General Mohammad Bekzhad. He knows a great deal about Najiba's killing. He was with his men in the same valley, locked in a 10-day battle with the Taliban.
GENERAL MOHAMMAD BEKZHAD (Translation): This is an image of the actual battle. On this side are our trenches and this is their side. They did a good job to get the video of Najiba's killing, but why can't they defeat the Taliban and end the executions?
GENERAL MOHAMMAD BEKZHAD (Translation): The geography of Afghanistan and the nature of warfare in this country mean that even if there were fewer than 80 of them they can, based on that geography and the fact that they are locals - be victorious. They don’t have a base. Understand? No permanent base – they can dress as civilians and blend in anywhere. Today we have come to one of Afghanistan's prisons. Some of these women are hardened criminals, but others are serving time for adultery, still a criminal offence in this country.
TEACHER (Translation): As you can see, the sun is very big and these planets orbit it. For some, it's their first time in a class. And it's no small irony that, under lock and key, they are safe from the Taliban. And, thanks to General Hakim Baryalai, the women are also able to learn life skills. Everything from English lessons to sewing classes, carpet weaving and hairdressing. Something the Taliban wouldn't tolerate. Fawzia Koofi has been a key backer of the courses.
GENERAL HAKIM BARYALAI (Translation): Are you all well – not sick? There's even the chance for the children of the prisoners to start their education. This too would be stopped if the Taliban returns to power. After they have served their sentence, many of the women end up here, in this nearby shelter. They are locked in for their own protection. There are yet more examples of this undeclared war on women and girls. 14-year-old Sahar Gul was left in an underground cell in her husband's home, beaten, had her fingernails removed and hair ripped out. She was sold to her in-laws by her brother. If it wasn't for the work of people like Anisa Nuzhar, Sahar Gul may never have had another chance at life. REPORTER (Translation): So you are very happy here? You’re studying here?
SAHAR GUL (Translation): Yes. REPORTER (Translation): Which subject do you like the most?
SAHAR GUL (Translation): The verses from the Koran. 18-year-old Mumtaz had acid thrown on her face by her would-be husband, who she refused to marry. It's a common form of abuse.
MUMTAZ (Translation): They would not let me look in the mirror – I cried a lot. She's safe for now, in the shelter.
MUMTAZ (Translation): In future, I’ll pray to God that I can study and become a successful lawyer. REPORTER (Translation): Why do you want to be a lawyer?
MUMTAZ (Translation): God willing, when I’m a lawyer I will confront this cruelty and help women who have been oppressed. I leave the refuge wondering whether Mumtaz's dream of becoming a lawyer could ever become reality. Strong women like Anisa Nuzhar and Fawzia Koofi may play a big role in the future of this war-torn nation. But foreign forces will be gone from here by 2014 and just behind the mountains, the Taliban are waiting. Reporter
YALDA HAKIM Camera
RYAN SHERIDAN Producers
VICTORIA STROBL Editors
DAVID POTTS Translations/Subtitling
NASIBA AKRAM Original Music Composed by