Dozens of rights activists took to the streets on Wednesday to protest over the recent public execution of a young woman for alleged adultery, which was captured in a horrific video.
The 22-year-old victim was shot dead as dozens of men cheered in a village about 100 kilometres north of the capital Kabul.
The execution was blamed by the authorities on Taliban militants and caused global outrage, with world leaders denouncing the Islamists, who are waging an insurgency against the Western-backed government.
“We want justice,” the protesters, almost all women, chanted as they marched from the women’s affairs ministry to President Hamid Karzai’s heavily-fortified palace.
The crowd, stopped at the first layer of multiple security lines around the palace, shouted that Karzai should take action over the execution.
“The execution of the woman by the Taliban was a crime... the government must do everything to bring the culprits to justice,” parliamentarian Shinkai Karokhail, who joined the march, said.
“This is the duty of the government to deliver justice.”
The demonstrators included Sahar Gul, the child-bride victim of an internationally notorious case of abuse by her husband’s family when she refused to work as a prostitute.
Gul, 15, who was burned and beaten and had her fingernails pulled out, was found in the basement of her husband’s house last December in northeastern Baghlan province, where she had been locked in a toilet for six months.
Since recovering from her injuries after being rescued by police, she has become a symbol of resistance in the poverty-stricken and deeply conservative nation where women are still often treated as second-class citizens.
Another woman on the march bore the scars of having had acid thrown in her face by a man whom she refused to marry.
Karzai condemned the execution as un-Islamic and unforgivable and security forces have launched a manhunt for those responsible.
The commander of Nato’s 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, General John Allen, offered to help local security forces track and capture the men involved in what he called “an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty”.
Public executions of alleged adulterers were common when the Taliban were in power from 1996 until 2001, when they were ousted by a US-led invasion for harbouring Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.