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Afghan Lashing Highlights Use Of Shari'a Law


Public lashings and even harsher punishments were common under the Taliban. (file photo)

Public lashings and even harsher punishments were common under the Taliban. (file photo)

BAGHLAN, Afghanistan -- It's the type of punishment that many thought would vanish with the fall of the Taliban, but Shari'a law is alive and well in Afghanistan.

One unidentified 20-year-old man has felt the full force of the Islamic legal code in the northern Afghan province of Baghan.

After confessing to drinking alcohol, which is forbidden under Shari'a law, he received 80 lashes at the hands of a local judge.

Proof that such punishments are still being carried out is contained in a video obtained this week by Radio Free Afghanistan.

But the April 11 ruling and punishment depicted in the video is by no means a rare occurrence, according to experts.

WATCH: An Afghan man receives 80 lashes as punishment for drinking alcohol

As Wadir Safi, a law professor at Kabul University, explains, Shari'a law prevails in much of rural Afghanistan, while civil law takes precedence in urban centers.

This is because Afghan law incorporates both Islamic and civil law, and leaves it up to individual judges and courts to determine which code of law to apply.

Different Interpretations Of Same Law

"The difference in law is the person, the judge themselves," says Safi. "In Kabul, they act in one way, in Jalalabad another, and in Kandahar another. The law is the same law but the judges are different. They are [handing out punishments] according to their own [interpretation]."

The video provides a window into the process. It shows the 20-year-old facing justice in the yard of a local court, where he is declared guilty of consuming alcohol.

As a handful of bystanders look on, the bearded judge proceeds to lash the criminal with a leather strap containing an inner layer of lead.

According to witnesses, the judge holds an egg in the armpit of the arm he uses to flog the culprit. This is intended to limit the strength of the blows by forcing the judge to keep his arm close to his body. If he drops or breaks the egg, he has gone too far.

Witnesses of this punishment describe it as moderate compared to penalties handed down by the Taliban, which could be as severe as beheadings and amputations of limbs.

But that is not to say that Shari'a law does not allow for severe punishment in modern-day Afghanistan.

According to some interpretations of the law, women can be stoned to death for adultery; drug users can be lashed and chained for several consecutive days for "cleansing" purposes; and convicted murderers can be offered to a victim's family, which has the right to carry out an execution.

Written and reported by Frud Bezhan, with additional reporting by Bashir Ahmad Ghizali
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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to bezhanf@rferl.org

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