Posted in Afghanistan, C-Haze, Crime, Current Events, Farkhunda Malikzada, Islam, Justice, New York Times, Quran

New York Times, Quran and Justice

On December 26, 2015, the New York Times posted a lengthy story with disturbing video showing an Afghan woman being beaten to death for allegedly burning a Quran at a local shrine. The story should be required reading for everyone, and should be part of our collective awareness of the world around us.

Farkhunda Malikzada was 27 years old, a victim of mob justice in a country that is known for its deplorable treatment of women.

Following her death, it was determined that the woman did not burn a Quran at all. (Color me Western, but I fail to understand how her violent murder would have been justified even if she had burned a Quran, but I digress.)

Fortune tellers would visit the shrine on certain days. Wednesdays, for example, were only for women, and amulets could be purchased from the fortune tellers to help them get pregnant, conceive male children, get married, etc. The amulets consisted of little more than pieces of paper that had writing on them. The women would pin the paper to themselves.

These practices are not religious in nature, and some people – Farkhunda being one of them – took issue with the use of “superstition” under the veil of religion. She confronted the fortune teller.

Later, it was determined that in addition to amulets, the fortune teller was smuggling Viagra into the shrine, and condoms too. Some even suspected he was a pimp of sorts.

What Farkhunda actually did, was stand up for her religious faith by standing up to this fraudulent man at the shrine. She was protecting her religion. The terrible irony is that she was accused of disrespecting her faith in the most heinous of ways – by burning a Quran – when she was, in fact, doing the opposite. If anything, what Farkhunda actually burned were the amulets. Those useless pieces of paper her fellow sisters were hanging their entire existences on.

She was not given a criminal trial, nor due process. She was beaten to death in the street, her body burned, while police and others stood by.

Women, joined by a few men, marched in the streets, demanding justice for Farkhunda. Candlelight vigils were held, and high profile people took notice.

An investigation was conducted. Some people were charged with crimes relating to Farkhunda’s murder. The man who first accused her of burning the Quran, even received a death sentence.

For a minute, at least, it felt like a victory. Even as she wasn’t alive to see it, perhaps Farkhunda would get justice. Perhaps the women of Afghanistan – all of those who had been abused before Farkhunda – would receive justice.

Then, just as quickly, those wheels of “justice” shifted. While many people were tried and convicted in the case, quite a few had their sentences overturned or drastically reduced upon appeal. The man who accused Farkhunda of burning the Quran had his death sentence commuted to life in prison, a sentence in Afghanistan that equates to 20 years. Another man who was given a death sentence had it reduced on appeal to a mere 10 years imprisonment.

Many of the guilty had their sentences overturned, but it appears many of the innocent were convicted as well.

In short, chaos reigned, and it looks as if actual justice was the last thing on the minds of many. The court system in Afghanistan does not resemble that of its western contemporaries. In fact, the lawyers of one of the accused didn’t even know his client’s trial had begun until the man’s father called and told him so. Defendants are allowed only short statements at trial, to be recited at the very end of the proceedings. The judges rule almost immediately thereafter, rendering it inconceivable that they’re taking the statements of the accused into consideration.

Farkhunda’s family fled Afghanistan, but still seek justice for her, having appealed to the country’s supreme court for assistance. Still today, many think of Farkhunda as the “woman who burned the Quran”, and who was lynched for doing so.

Posted in #BlackLivesMatter, Crime, Current Events, Police Brutality, Race, Racism

Thoughts on Ramos Funeral Protest of de Blasio

I’m the first to say the officers at Ralph Ramos’ funeral had every right to turn their backs on de Blasio while he spoke at the service. They have the right to protest just as the rest of us do. That said, however, I hope anyone who supports the rights of those officers (who were in uniform) also supports the rights of NFL players (who were also in uniform) to show solidarity with the “Hands up don’t shoot” movement, or the rights of other protestors at other venues. These officers chose the funeral of one of their fallen comrades to make a statement- I don’t disagree with the method, as it was powerful. We didn’t call for disciplinary action against those officers, nor did we ask for an apology (nor should we!). Yet, the police union did both of those things when 5 Rams players took the field with their hands up. In the end, it’s all the same, and we’re all expressing our rights. We may not be able to agree on the issues at hand, but let’s all acknowledge that we’re all expressing our patriotism by exercising rights granted to us in the Constitution. In the end, we do it for the same reason: because All Lives Matter.

Posted in Crime, Current Events, Dating, Rape

Date Rape, Nail Polish and Empowering Women

Nail-PolishThere’s been a lot of uproar lately about this new nail polish that can detect whether or not date rape drugs are present in one’s drink. After applying the polish, a person can stir the drink with their finger, and the color will change if drugs are detected.

A lot of women are critical of this, saying the responsibility of whether to rape or not falls squarely on the shoulders of the rapist. Still others hail this as a wonderful invention.

I agree with those who say this nail polish is a wonderful thing. While I also agree that only the rapist bears responsibility for committing the crime of rape, I fully support anything that empowers women, and makes them less likely to be victimized.

No one would tell a homeowner not to bother locking their doors at night, because we all understand that doing so makes us less likely to be the victims of a home invasion. Equally true, if someone neglects to lock their doors, no one is going to blame them for getting robbed. The robber is still fully responsible for committing the crime.

We tell women not to leave their drinks unattended in bars, we tell women to use the buddy system when out partying, and to make sure someone is always aware of their plans. We fully support women who choose to take self-defense classes, and constantly remind them to “trust” their guts, don’t be afraid to walk away from a situation that feels funny, even if the reason for that feeling is not easily identified.

How is the idea of the nail polish any different from any of those things? There is nothing wrong with taking action to make us less likely to be victimized. If, despite the actions we have taken (and even if no action was taken at all), the unthinkable happens, it is not the victim’s fault. That’s not what this nail polish symbolizes, nor is that what supporters are claiming.

Predators use ever-evolving technology to accomplish more and more dastardly deeds. It’s high time technology was used to stop them in their tracks.

Posted in Crime, Missing, News

Etan Patz: Investigators have a tough road to conviction

PHOTO: Pedro Hernandez sits during his hospital arraignment, May 25, 2012.As I continue following the case of Etan Patz, I am struck by a few different thoughts.

First, it is amazing to me- assuming this child was disposed of in the manner suspect Pedro Hernandez claims he was- just how easily a life can be seemingly erased.

Just gone.

Hernandez says after luring the child into the basement of the bodega (where he was employed), he simply placed the body in a bag, and left it in the narrow walkway/alley where the trash collectors would have taken it as part of their regular pick up.

In just a short period of time, the child has simply vanished. Now, 33 years later, it is unlikely he will ever be found.

Next, I am struck by the how difficult this case is going to be for the prosecution. What was the motive for committing this crime? Hernandez doesn’t seem to be a pedophile. When asked why he did it, Hernandez had no answer. He says he doesn’t know. He later said that maybe he did it because little Etan reminded him of a nephew he wasn’t fond of.

Others have speculated that Hernandez was mentally ill, as if that explains the lack of motive. If Hernandez was simply crazy, how did he manage to dispose of the boy’s body in such a thorough manner? How did he manage to live a sane life, with a wife and a child, committing no other crimes, victimizing no other children for 33 years?

Then again, perhaps there are other victims, and Hernandez managed to kidnap and dispose of them as effectively as he kidnapped and disposed of Etan.

Personally, I doubt he could have done that over the course of so many years without raising suspicion somewhere along the way.

In a case that has had its share of both suspects and false confessions, a case that is 33 years old, where there is no body, DNA or physical evidence, the lack of motive seems significant.

I wonder how police can be sure they have the right man. Even if they do, I’m not sure they’ll be able to convince a jury to convict him.

Posted in Crime, News

Man claims he killed Etan Patz

EtanIs this the break authorities have been waiting for?

A man in police custody has implicated himself in the murder of New York City youth, Etan Patz.

Patz disappeared in 1979 while on his way to his school bus stop.

He was six years old, and while long considered dead, authorities have yet to locate the boy’s body, or charge anyone with his murder. There have been multiple suspects over the years.

Etan was the first missing child to have his picture featured on milk cartons, and the case has held public attention for decades.

Suspect Pedro Hernandez lived in the same neighborhood as Patz when he went missing. Hernandez confessed to killing a “child” to both a family member and spiritual advisor in recent years, though he did not name the victim. He has since told police the child was Etan, and that after killing him, he placed the boy’s body in a box. When he later returned, the box was gone.

I feel immense sympathy for the parents of this lost child. Every few years another lead or suspect turns up, and they find themselves back in the spotlight. After getting their hopes for closure dashed so many times, I wonder how they manage to hold it together. They are strong people, that is for sure.

My thoughts join with the thoughts of millions, hoping for some resolution at long last.

Posted in Crime, News

Arrest made in Sierra LaMar abduction

Sierra LamarAll signs point to a tragic conclusion in the case of the mysterious disappearance of teen Sierra LaMar.

Authorities believe LaMar disappeared on her way to the school bus stop on the morning of March 16th. She had been active on her Twitter account while getting ready for school, until all activity suddenly stopped. School officials confirmed she was not present in class that day, and canines later lost her scent at the end of her driveway.

Sierra’s cell phone and handbag, with items of her clothing carefully tucked inside, were later found abandoned.

Police recently announced that they were looking for a red Volkswagen, a vehicle seen in the vicinity at the time    of LaMar’s disappearance. The car was later located and seized.

Authorities have since announced that DNA found on the clothing from inside the discarded handbag are a match to 21 year old Antolin Garcia-Torres.

Garcia-Torres’ DNA was in the database due an earlier assault arrest. While that incident was non-sexual, it was a felony, which allowed police to obtain his DNA.

Investigators have said the man has been under 24-hour surveillance since March, with the hope he’d lead police to the girl’s body. After two months, nothing new had surfaced, and the decision was made to arrest him, for the public’s safety.

The suspect since been linked, by physical evidence, to another assault- this one dating back to March 2009.Antolin Garcia-Torres

Currently it is thought LaMar’s abduction was random, and police believe she is dead.

In the meantime, Garcia-Torres’ family says police have the wrong man, and that he did not commit this crime.

This writer would like to point out that while DNA doesn’t lie, people definitely do.

It’s difficult to face the fact that a loved one is actually a monster, capable of inhuman acts against those least able to defend themselves.

Hopefully this man will show some mercy on Sierra LaMar’s family, and finally tell them where they can find her body. She deserves to come home, and they deserve to know she is, at the very least, resting in peace.