09/08/2012 12:32 pm ET Updated Sep 10, 2012

Afghan Actress' Murder Forces Others Into Hiding

On Aug. 20, sisters Areza and Tamana and their friend Benafsha were minutes away from moving out of their conservative Kabul neighborhood when the neighbors attacked.

The three women tried to flee, the Guardian reports, and while the sisters succeeded, Benefsha was not so lucky; the 22-year-old actress was stabbed to death on the steps of a mosque.

According to Russia Today, Benafsha had been threatened before as some considered the roles she played to be against Islamic values.

All three of the girls were used to "taunts, threats" and criticism of their outfits, the Guardian writes. But still, said Areza, they weren't expecting the mob.

The police made some arrests, but it weren't the knife-wielding neighbors who were taken into custody. Instead, after a few hours in the hospital, Areza and Tamana were arrested for "moral crimes," subjected to intrusive "virginity tests" and learned they might face years in prison, according to the Guardian.

Benafsha's violent death has had a chilling effect on other Afghan actresses, the Khaama Press reports.

After the murder, Sahar Parniyan, a prominent Afghan actress and colleague of Benefsha and Areza, said she began receiving threats, Russia Today writes. Parniyan, in fear for her life, called the Kabul police and reported the death threats, but her fears were met with contempt and neglect, KabulPress reports.

Parniyan has since abandoned her home and now conceals her address. She has, however, declared her intent to write an open letter to the Ministry of the Interior, condemning Benefsha's killing and Areza and Tamana's arrests and demanding the government take seriously the job of protecting women in the public sphere, Kabul Press adds.

But Afghan police and prosecutors maintain that Benefsha's murder and the attack on the sisters had nothing to do with their profession.

"The result of our investigation is that she was not killed because they work in television, the six people who killed her were threatening the group one or two days before with the aim of getting them to agree to illegal relations," Ghulam Dastegi Hedayat, the women's prosecutor, told the Guardian on Thursday.

The attacks come at the end of a summer that also saw the death of Hanifa Safi, head of women's affairs in Laghman Province, a woman "known locally for going out without her head covered," according to the BBC.

UPDATE -- 9/10: A petition to free Tamana and Areza has been initiated on and as of this writing, has 48 signatures.