Afghan women still suffer horrendous abuse, says United Nations report
Report shows that forced marriages, 'honour' killings and women resorting to self-immolation still prevalent
by Jon Boone in Kabul
Bibi Aisha, the Afghan girl whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband, was a "lucky victim" because she survived her attack and got help, a top human rights official in the country said yesterday.
While Aisha escaped her abusive family, the deputy chairman of the country's Independent Human Rights Commission said that many women in similar circumstances were less lucky. "For sure, we have hundreds of Bibi Aishas in Afghanistan," said Ahmad Fahim Hakim.
His remarks came after the news that one of the men responsible for attacking Aisha had been arrested, a development hailed by human rights workers as a sign the Afghan authorities are starting to take deep-rooted abuse of women seriously. [SEE ARTICLE BELOW]
Hakim was speaking during the publication of a major UN report that showed that, despite improvements in women's rights – long touted as a major goal of the US-led intervention in Afghanistan – the country is still blighted by forced marriages, the giving away of infant girls to future husbands to settle disputes, 'honour' killings and desperate women resorting to death by self-immolation.
The report by the UN's Afghanistan mission said that such practices are problem in all communities and cause "suffering, humiliation and marginalisation for millions of Afghan women and girls".
Despite recent efforts to toughen laws designed to protect women, the government does little to combat abuses. For example, the law on elimination of violence against women, which was regarded by rights activists as a major step forward when it came into effect in August last year, is not being enforced in many rural areas, where officials have not even heard of it, the report said.
One long-observed tradition covered by the report is the concept of baad, where a young girl will be given in marriage to settle disputes between families.
"Many of the women told us that, instead of the murderer being punished, an innocent girl is punished and has to spend her life in slavery and subject to cruel violence," said Georgette Gagnon, the UN's director of human rights in Kabul.
The head of Afghanistan's only specialist burns unit is quoted saying that forced marriages are the main cause of women who try to kill themselves by setting themselves on fire.
According to figures quoted in the report, in 57% of Afghan marriages one of the partners is younger than 16.
THE REPORT PRESS RELEASE:
HARMFUL TRADITIONAL PRACTICES THAT VIOLATE WOMEN’S RIGHTS
WIDESPREAD IN AFGHANISTAN: SPEEDY IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LAW ON
ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN NEEDED
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The Guardian - UK December 8, 2010
Father of mutilated Afghan girl fears attackers will escape law
Captured father-in-law could evade justice despite allegedly helping relatives to cut off girl's nose and ears
by Jon Boone in Kabul
The father of an Afghan girl whose nose and ears were sliced off by her relatives, says he fears the culprits will never be brought to justice despite the arrest of the main accomplice.
Mohammadzai, the father of Bibi Aisha, whose mutilated face shocked the world when she was featured on the front cover of Time magazine, said he welcomed the fact that his daughter's father-in-law had been captured, but worried that the man could be released illegally.
"I want the hardest punishment that the law of Afghanistan has, but he is from a big family and he has money," he said. "It is just a matter of knowing the right person in Uruzgan and you can get out of prison."
Afghanistan's courts and police force are notoriously corrupt and open to bribes. Even when convictions are successful the government has pardoned well-connected drug traffickers and, in one case, a group of three gang rapists.
Local officials have also expressed doubt about the chances of the family of Aisha, who is now 20, winning such a case, which in the conservative southern province of Uruzgan, where the crime happened, has not attracted the same outrage as it has around the world.
Today, neither the police nor the provincial attorney general were able to say if, or when, the case would go to trial.
Mohammadzai was speaking after it emerged that one of the prime suspects was arrested almost two weeks ago after he emerged from the Taliban controlled village, where he had been hiding, to go to a nearby market.
The father-in-law of Aisha, Haji Mullah Sulaiman, is said to have helped restrain her while family members, including her husband, Qudratullah, cut off her nose and ears, as a punishment for her running away. Two other relatives, in addition to Sulaiman and his son, are also suspects in the case.
When confronted by police, Sulaiman attempted to flee but was successfully arrested after shots were fired in the air near a house he had bolted into.
Mohammadzai said Sulaiman had been in hiding in Pakistan immediately after the attack on Aisha but that he had returned to his home district in the southern province of Uruzgan sometime in the last month.
Qudratullah, Aisha's teenage husband, is believed to be still hiding in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
Uruzgan's police chief, Juma Gul Hemat, confirmed the arrest and claimed that Sulaiman had accepted responsibility for the crime. Hemat said Sulaiman had told him that his family had become angry with Aisha after she criticised her new marital home and spent too much time in her father's house.
Controversy has surrounded the use of the harrowing photograph of Aisha by Time to illustrate the brutality of the Taliban who, Aisha says, convened a special "court" to authorise the punishment of her after she fled, at the age of 18, from her abusive in-laws.
The Taliban have denied the claim and condemned the incident as "barbaric". Although the Taliban try to protect themselves from bad publicity, some observers see the case as a purely domestic dispute mixed up with a particularly ugly version of justice that has been meted out in rural Afghanistan for centuries.
Mohammadzai insisted that the maiming of his daughter was a heinous crime "condemned by everyone in Afghanistan", but he has reportedly had to go into hiding because the local community has refused to support him.
To add further confusion, Sulaiman told the BBC yesterday that it was Aisha's own family who proposed the punishment. "I am innocent," he said. "Aisha's father is accusing me. He had proposed to me to kill her because she had brought shame on him after she fled her house."
After a local BBC reporter interviewed him in his prison cell, authorities refused all other requests to speak to him.
Aisha went to California for reconstructive surgery and to be fitted with a prosthetic nose. She is expected to remain there for months to come.
This article was found at:
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