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|Part 2:The Pech Uprising|
One story that Wakil told me captures better than any other the tensions at the heart of the tribal uprising. This story had particular poignancy for Wakil, as I will explain. But first let me provide some background. The events described culminated during the month of Ramazan in 1980, when Wakil, along with other members of the tribal council, decided to go home for the feast marking the end of fasting. Wakil's home was fifty kilometers from the front, and while he was away, Haji Ghafur, the head of the tribal council, had a young Safi woman stoned to death. Here is the story of the woman's execution as Wakil told it to me.
Regarding this girl-maybe it's important, maybe it's not. But in my view it's very important. I have forgotten her name, but I used to know it. She was from the village of Udaigram in Pech Valley, which is about three villages away from Ningalam, the center of the woleswali of Pech Valley. The area was completely free at that time, and the leaders of the fronts were all at Utapur, eight or nine kilometers from Chagha Serai. At that time, this girl had a husband but no children. She was pregnant though, and her husband had gone off to do his military service.
When he returned to Pech Valley on leave from the military for a while, this girl whom I've been talking about said to him, "All of the people are doing jihad, and all of the young men from here have joined the jihad fronts against this Khalq and Parcham government. And now you are going to the military. I had thought that you had escaped from the military when you came here. Now you tell me that you're going back. If you go back, the women of the village are going to insult me-âYour husband is a Khalqi. He's gone to the military.' Don't do this."
But, the husband didn't agree. "Only two months remain, and I will have finished my service and come back. I'll take my chance."
The girl told him, "If you go, you're not my husband. If I can't convince you, I will flee from here with whomever wants to go. I'm telling you this beforehand so you will know."
Her husband didn't pay any attention to his wife's words, and he returned to the army. While the husband was away, . . . the girl spoke with her paternal cousin, [who was] not from a distant place, [but] from her own village, and one of her own relatives, a young boy who was still immature, around twenty years old. [She said to him,] "Won't you escape with me? I have made a vow that I will no longer accept him as my husband since he has returned to the Khalqi government to serve in the military, and the women in the village insult me and taunt me. Since you are a mujahid and go to fight and also you are my relative, I am ready to run away with you, wherever you want to go. If you don't take me, then I'll go with someone else. So you can't say you didn't know."
This boy became obliged [to go with her]. She told all of this in her confession. He traveled together with this girl. They headed for Pakistan by way of Shigal, but they were captured by Hizb-i Islami. When they captured them, they sent them back to Pech . . . and announced what had happened; [they] sent them back to the amir of jihad, who was Haji Ghafur. They considered this matter there in the tribal council.
I supported this girl in the meeting: "It's her right. She's a mujahid. This girl is a man. She has done the right thing. Why should she be stuck with the name of Khalqi? It is her right. She has done something manly; she has acted bravely. She has done jihad."
They said, "What you say is right."
I said, "Fine, then release her."
They replied, "We will release her, but be patient. Who knows? If she goes back to her home, her father or her brothers might kill her for escaping. We have never had an incident like this in our tribe before. Although she's in the right, she did flee, [and] her brothers, her father, her family might kill her. . . ."
They convinced me that if we released this girl, if she had enemies, there was a danger she would be killed. They said that they would resolve the problem. I agreed. She remained in prison. Two, three, four months passed after this. After this, [it became clear that] she was also pregnant. This pregnancy was from when her husband had come back. It was then that she became pregnant.
As I was saying, all of us left, including some of the elders and the members of the tribal council, all of us went back to our homes for the Ramazan feast. This Haji Ghafur, along with some of the Hezbis, remained behind, and I heard that they brought this boy-the girl's cousin-and lashed him. They lashed him on the basis of religious law. They gave him one hundred lashes and then released him, and he went away. But the girl, since the girl had a husband-because the boy wasn't married, they lashed him-but since the girl had a husband, they stoned her.
One of the mullas who made this decision, he was from Nuristan, but this bastard had lived all his life in Saudi Arabia and came back only at this point. Even his own people didn't know him. Some people say that he had been away for twenty-five or thirty years. He comes back, renders his judgment, and then escapes. Where is the judge [qazi] who made the decision? The amir [Haji Ghafur] is illiterate. He doesn't know how to sign his own name. Any judge who makes a decision-first of all, his residence should be recognized, his property should be recognized, so that people know that when he passes judgment he will be responsible to answer questions in the future. Instead, a judge comes down the road, comes and makes a decision, kills people, then goes away, maybe to Saudi or some other place. We wanted to question him, but when we looked for him, we couldn't find him. Even to this day, we don't know where he is.
Those who told me this story, those who were present there and who told me the story, they were full of hatred and very upset. They said, "The girl stood up. She was standing straight. She was very tall and very beautiful and strong. She was smiling, she . . . pointed toward the mullas and smiled. And they struck her. She smiled. After some time, she was buried under the stones. Then she moved, and they saw that she was still alive. So they pulled her out, and she stood up again. She had not lost any of her passion."
They say that up to her last breath, she was smiling and staring at the people. She was smiling. As the amir of Hizb-i Islami, Haji Ghafur threw the first [stone]. She told him, "It's all right." She understood that they were going to stone her. She only said this to them: "Bravo for your jihad! Bravo for your bravery!"
After that, she stared at the people and smiled. In fact, she was humiliating them, [asking them] "What kind of justice is this? What kind of fairness? What did I do to deserve this? This man was a Khalqi and my husband. He left to join the Russian trench. He took refuge there and serves in their army. He's fighting on their side against you. I did this for Islam, for the honor and respect of these people. It was for this that I became an enemy of my husband. Not because I liked this boy or to betray my husband. And you stone me for that." . . .
The whole village was sad about this girl. We consider her a hero. She was a sacrifice [qurbani] to the prejudice and foolishness of a group of corrupt leaders who just wanted to do politics. This had nothing to do with knowledge, understanding, ethics, nothing. And the mulla who made the decision, there is no trace of him.
But the people themselves haven't forgotten what happened. It's in their minds, and sometime someone will pay for this. We just don't know when. And the boy, the husband, who I understand has gone back to the army, he is still walking around. 
As Wakil went on to explain to me, determining the right and wrong of this execution from the tribal point of view was a complicated matter. If the woman had been unmarried and had fled with some man against the wishes of her parents, she could have taken refuge with an elder; a jirga would have met, and in all likelihood the man would have been assessed a fine (tawan) to pay to the woman's family to clear up her "bad name" (bad nama). Then they would have been allowed to marry. Wakil told me that on a number of occasions unmarried runaways had taken refuge with his father, and he had always helped work out arrangements by which the couples were allowed to marry. However, if the runaway couple were to leave the area and then were subsequently captured in some other place and returned, it would become much more difficult to take care of them: "If they don't kill the girl, they will definitely kill the boy. And if they kill the boy and the girl isn't killed, the family of the boy will ask the killers, âIf this is a "bad name," why didn't you kill your daughter or your sister with him? Why did you kill only my son?' Therefore, they are obliged to kill her with him." 
In affairs in which one or both individuals are married, the penalty is straightforward: they are both put to death. Wakil told me a story involving a runaway couple from another area who sought asylum with his father, who subsequently discovered that the woman was married. In that instance, he turned them over to the woman's husband, who intended to kill both his wife and her lover, but the man managed to escape. The mitigating factor in the previous case was that the woman left her husband not for romantic reasons but because of her husband's actions and the disrespect that his actions brought to her. Given the fact that the entire tribe had sworn an oath to fight the government and the husband had joined forces with the government, Wakil argued that the woman acted properly-in his terms, "like a man." Unlike her husband, who reasoned that he had only a short time of service remaining, the woman put honor above expediency and for that reason should not have been punished.
Another source of Wakil's anger over this affair was the decision of Haji Ghafur to sentence her to public stoning. From the perspective of their customary tribal law (safi qanun), if a woman is found guilty of adultery, the husband (or his male family members if he is not present) has the right to kill her since she is his namus. Likewise, from the point of view of tribal law, the husband is obliged to kill the man with whom she ran off:
From the point of view of Pushtunwali and Safi qanun, since the girl is dead and the boy is still walking around, the husband is obliged to find the boy and kill him. . . . His wife has been ruined, she has lost her reputation and has been killed, and the boy is still alive. [The husband] is not relieved from dishonor yet. He is obliged to kill that boy. . . . In Safi law, this is an enmity. Whenever he has the power, he has to do it, but [until then] this kind of person can't sit in any group. He would be ashamed to sit in a gathering. 
What galled Wakil the most, it appears, was that the tribe had allowed a group of mullas-including one man who was illiterate and another who was a virtual stranger to the area-to use religious law to contravene tribal law and to carry out an execution of one of their own people against the expressed orders of the tribal council. Mullas have traditionally held a subordinate position in tribal society. In judicial cases, they would always be consulted for precedents from religious law, but the final decision belonged to the jirga. Here, the jirga was ignored and then found itself powerless to redress the disrespect shown to it, first, because the man responsible for executing the woman was their own amir of jihad and, second, because the parties directly implicated in the affair (the families of the husband and the wife) failed to play their expected roles.
For Wakil, who brought up the affair a number of times in the course of our interview, the stoning of this Safi woman exemplified the degradation of honor and the deterioration of tribal unity that was happening in Pech at that time. Tribes that had long stood up against government interference now found themselves paralyzed in the face of interference by the Islamic parties that used the circumstances of jihad to subvert tribal structures and principles. Even though Haji Ghafur was displaced as amir of the tribal council and Wakil himself was chosen to replace him, the demoralization caused by this woman's death lived on after the event. Wakil could take little satisfaction in his own elevation to a position of authority and respect in his tribe, for the circumstances of his being chosen as amir demonstrated that the demise of the tribe as an effective fighting force was at hand.
In addition to what it tells us about the changing balance of power in the tribe, the story of the woman's death by stoning also crystallizes another set of themes running throughout Wakil's narrative, themes having to do with the ambivalent relations between men and women and what they signify. Consider in this regard the first story recounted in Chapter Four involving Wakil's response to the Khalqi takeover. When Wakil heard Hafizullah Amin's voice over the radio, he told his wife that henceforth she would be both father and mother to their children. By this statement Wakil indicated that, as long as the sanctity of the homeland was in question, men of honor could not go about their ordinary business nor assume their normal domestic responsibilities. More profoundly, Wakil indicated that his status as a father (and consequently as a man) was in jeopardy as long as the Marxists had control of his homeland-homeland here being a metaphorical extension of the homestead, with the Marxist rulers being equated to housebreakers who had violated the sanctity of the family quarters. The homeland, like the domestic quarters, is sacred space, and a man who cannot defend what is sacred to him is no man at all and is viewed as something like a cuckold (dawus).  Wakil does not say this about himself, but he does acknowledge his responsibility for setting things right through transmuted gender roles, the wife being father and mother to the children.
The themes of violation, emasculation, and gender reversal percolate throughout Wakil's narrative, but the first such example in the book comes not in his stories but in the biography of Taraki, where we found the account of government soldiers "violating" the Taraki home and Mrs. Taraki facing down the soldiers while her husband cowers beneath a woman's veil (burqa). Similar vignettes, where women take on male roles in the absence of male action, appear at various points in Wakil's narrative:
In addition to these stories, there are the two instances in which the inability to defend honor causes Wakil's male relatives to contemplate the need to sacrifice their women and children on honor's altar. In related stories men have their guns taken away from them and are thereby emasculated. The first is the story of Sultan Muhammad Khan's confrontation with General Daud, and the second is about the looting of the Asmar garrison. These two stories relate to the theme of tyranny being a form of emasculation, with those in power (or, in the case of the Islamic parties, seeking to gain power) violating the sanctity of honor in their pursuit of their ambition.
These various stories, in sum, reveal that, at its most profound level, Afghan politics revolves around gendered ideals of personal integrity. When those in power overstep the bounds of their legitimate authority, it is often narrativized in terms of violation and emasculation. That is one reason why female education and veiling have perennially been such powerful and explosive issues in Afghanistan and why rejection of the Khalqi revolution was so often explained through stories of Khalqi violations of domestic space and male prerogatives of personal regulation over their own households. It is also, I believe, at the root of Wakil's story of the stoning of the Safi woman, where once again, but from a different and unexpected direction, tribal autonomy was contested by outsiders whose bid for power was expressed through control of women's lives.
1. Interview, February 14, 1983. [BACK]
2. Ibid. [BACK]
3. Ibid. [BACK]
4. This theme is developed further in Edwards 1996. [BACK]
5. The practice of having women and mullas acting as emissaries between warring parties is an established tradition among Pakhtuns and other tribal people in the Middle East, but Wakil in essence rejects the application of this custom to this situation, telling the women that they are all one tribe and under the same threat and that they all must be willing to sacrifice to preserve their honor. [BACK]