Kabul: Men stone woman protesting sexual harassment with metal armour

An Afghan woman, who nearly got lynched after walking through the streets of Kabul wearing metal armour in a bid to denounce sexual harassment, is now in hiding.

In a staged performance, Kubra Khademi walked through Kabul's most populated neighbourhood, Kote Sangi, where she said women are frequently harassed.

After her performance, angry men showed up at her door. Since then, the young artist has been forced into hiding at friends' homes in the suburbs of Kabul.

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Men throwing rocks

Taken by a Turkish journalist, Mete Sohtaoğlu, photos showing Khademi walking in her suit surrounded by dozens of men went viral on social media websites.

"Before I started, I prayed that I wouldn't get chased down and killed by a hostile crowd. Unfortunately, my fears were well-founded – after a few minutes during which men in the street just seemed stunned, they started following me and insulting me. Some even started throwing rocks," Khademi said.

While Afghanistan is infamous for violence against women, which includes honour killings, sexual harassment, forced marriage and domestic abuse, Khademi told France 24 how she had decided to stage a protest, after having had to put up with men touching her and insulting her in the streets of Kabul since she was a little girl.

"And of course, as I grew up, it became worse. This happens to all women here," she said.

"The only people who tried to defend me were a few friends and journalists who had come to see my performance. Men started punching us, kicking us. Some of my female friends told me that they were sexually molested by men in the crowd."

While the young woman had initially planned on walking for 10 minutes, she had to run into a taxi after just eight minutes on the streets.

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Young men continued to punch the car as the driver sped away.

Khademi said she believes the rise of extremism and violence has created a lot of frustration, "which leads to this type of deviant behaviour".

She added: "We live in a patriarchal society, where women are seen as second-class citizens. When we complain about sexual harassment, men often say that if a woman wears a proper veil, nobody will bother her. But this is obviously false, since even women who wear a burqa get harassed in the streets."

In October 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged President Ashraf Ghani's new government to take urgent steps to combat sexual harassment of women in education, employment and public life.

However, even when men are arrested for sexual harassment, they are often released since laws against harassment do not yet exist in Afghanistan.

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