Tunku Varadarajan writes about Taliban Justice:
Here, a man, sturdy and deliberate, is hitting a teenage girl repeatedly on the buttocks with a strap, as two men press her—face-down—to the ground. One immobilizes her by pinning down her shoulders, the other by binding her legs together in his grip. (We are told in news reports that the latter is the girl’s brother; his eyes are averted from the flogging, suggesting that he may have been coerced to participate in the punishment.)
The man hits, and hits, and hits. After the fourth strike, the girl starts to whine, then scream in pain and supplication. (It was at this point that my wife, the mother of a 17-year-old girl, left the room, unable to take it any more.) I made myself watch the clip about five times, so as to write about it as accurately as possible, and each time I watched it, I was flooded with queasy dread.
Look closely at the scene’s background and you will see a crowd ranged around the flogging. You do not see the faces of the crowd (just as you do not see the face of the hapless girl). You see only their legs, but you know intuitively that they are all men. They are immobilized too, transfixed by the spectacle and, perhaps, by fear and awe, as the blows rain down on the prone figure before them, her burka pulled above her waist to reveal her startlingly pink shalwar pants. Pink, in any land, however benighted, is a girlish color. The pink pants enhance the brutality. The pink pants make the flogging bully seem even more repulsive.
The Talib bully hits, and hits, and hits. He hits the girl 34 times. One senses, as one watches him wield his strap, that this is not just a demonstration of pitilessness. One senses, in fact, that the Talib is deriving pleasure—yes, sexual pleasure—from his beating of this girl, as he hits her hard on her buttocks, sometimes a little higher, sometimes a little lower, mapping his territory in a display of violent, misogynist cartography. His is as much a sexual act as an act of punishment. The Talib is getting satisfaction, a twisted, vile satisfaction derived from a twisted, vile social code.
Quite apart from the diabolical disproportion here of punishment (public flogging) to “crime” (adultery), it was never clearly established by any process of proof that the girl was, in truth, adulterous. The news reports say that the facts are murky, and that she may, in fact, have been falsely accused of adultery by a man whose proposal of marriage she–or her family–had rejected. It should also be pointed out that her flogging was preceded by a flogging of the man, an electrician, with whom she is alleged to have had improper relations. His plea that he had merely gone to the girl’s home to help fix an electrical fault was ignored. (There were, it is reported, other family members present in the house during his visit.) His punishment also included an order that he—a man already married—take the 17-year-old as his wife. (Yes, a chasm separates us from the Taliban, a gulf so vast that their doings make our jaws drop.)
The video can be seen here. I could only watch it once. But Varadarajan notes that the girl’s punishment probably isn’t over yet:
[I]t is very likely that someone will kill her before long, in the name of “honor.” There will be no happy ending to this story.