Who Was the Afghan Mom Executed by Taliban?

ByABC News via logo
October 1, 2002, 9:38 PM

Oct. 2 -- It was nearly a year ago that television viewers around the world first saw the searing image of an Afghan woman, shrouded in her burqa, publicly executed by a Taliban gunman at a soccer stadium.

Footage of the faceless, nameless woman shot dead in Kabul's Olympic Stadium was secretly smuggled out of Afghanistan by members of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), a women's group. Before long, the images of the Nov. 17, 1999, execution became an icon for female suffering under Taliban rule.

But now the woman without a face has a name: Zarmina. Reporter Anton Antonowicz of The Daily Mirror in London learned the identity of the woman behind the veil, and found out that she had actually been in prison for three years on charges of killing her husband.

Zarmina had been brought to jail along with her 1-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and for a while, she thought her children would save her.

Accused of Murdering Husband

The 35-year-old mother of seven was accused of murdering her husband, and her only hope was to be spared on account of her children, a hope fed by the Taliban declaring that until her twins were weaned, Zarmina would live.

"She kept repeating the same statement, and that was 'they're not going to kill me, they're not going to kill me'," Antonowicz told Good Morning America. "Who will look after my five children? I'm a mother. They would not kill a mother."

But Zarmina was wrong. Once her twins were weaned, her execution was scheduled.

Though it had been announced on the radio days before, Zarmina knew nothing about her impending death. She was convinced her punishment would be 100 lashes.

In fact, the morning of her execution she borrowed two extra dresses from fellow prisoners, and put them on underneath her burqa, hoping to soften the blows.

Dead on the Spot

Antonowicz was told by eyewitness in Afghanistan about what happened that morning. In front of 30,000 spectators, Zarmina was made to kneel before the soccer goalposts.