The Killing of Farkhunda…

The tormented final hours of Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old aspiring student of Islam who was accused of burning a Quran in a Muslim shrine, shocked Afghans across the country. That is because many of her killers filmed one another beating her and posted clips of her broken body on social media. Hundreds of other men watched, holding their phones aloft to try to get a glimpse of the violence, but never making a move to intervene. Those standing by included several police officers.

I remember reading about the attack on Farkhunda Malikzada in the weeks after it happened. There was a lot of coverage in the western media, it became a fairly big story in the ‘International’/’World’ sections. Even so, I left thinking ‘how?’ or ‘why?’ after nearly every piece. There was a number of videos of the attack on certain Twitter lists too, but again, you were left with the same questions (as you are with a lot of raw online video).

The videos were not easy to watch, they documented disgusting violence, horrifying sexism and exposed how some outlooks are still terrifyingly acceptable in Afghanistan, even after a war that was supposed to get rid of a Taliban said to embody many of those same outlooks. The attack raised massive questions about and within Afghanistan in the weeks after, in part because the world was suddenly watching. Separately the videos, the purest first-hand accounts, were little more than snapshots however. Singular shaky viewpoints.

In December, months after the attack itself, The New York Times published the video above. It’s compiled from mobile phone footage, much of which was available in the days after the attack, if you knew where and how to find them (I didn’t for many). Despite coming more than six months after the attack it was the first time I’d seen the full context compiled, the first time I finished a piece (maybe I missed something) feeling I had a decent understanding of the sequence of events, of the feeling within the mob.

There’s a lot of work in syncing those videos, let alone sourcing them, but they brought something that wasn’t there before, for me anyway. Context to the snapshots, pictures to the paragraphs. The lengthy feature article that accompanies the video contains superb journalism also, a further layer of context again, but words can only take your understanding so far sometimes.