Following the rescue last month of 15-year-old Sahar Gul from the basement of her in-laws where she had been starved and tortured for months, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for an investigation. CNN said that Gul was married to a 30-year-old man, Gulam Sakhi, about seven months ago. Police in the northern Baghlan province started to investigate after her parents said they had not seen her in months. Preliminary reports said that her in-laws had tried to force her into prostitution and, after she refused, she was detained in the basement.
According to Baghlan police official Jawid Basharat,
“After police rescued her from a dark room of her in-laws’ house, we saw her nails had been pulled out by her husband. And she said with broken voice that her husband used to cut her flesh using pliers.”
Gul was also denied food and tortured with hot irons. The Guardian says that she is now in a hospital in Kabul; an Afghan official says that she will be sent to India for more treatment. Authorities said they are waiting for her to recover before questioning her further.
It has also emerged that Gul at one point ran away to a neighbor’s house but was sent back. Police visited her in-laws’ house and the family promised that it would stop hurting her. Local community leader Ziaulhaq has alleged that government officials were paid bribes to cover up the incident.
When a male relative of Gul’s visited, he found her almost unable to speak. Gul’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested and her husband, who is serving in the Afghan army, is being sought. Police spokesman Basharat said that there are reports that her mother-in-law and other family members were engaged in “criminal activities,” including prostitution and selling alcohol.
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi described Gul’s torture as a “‘violent act that is unacceptable in the 21st century.’” Karzai has said that whoever abused Gul will be punished.
Violence Against Women and Girls Still Common
Women’s rights groups say that such violence against women and girls is still all too common in Afghanistan’s conservative society. There has been some progress since the fall of the Taliban ten years ago: According to CNN, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) registered 1,026 cases of violence against women in the second quarter of this year. In contrast, 2,700 cases were recorded last year.
In 2009, the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was passed; the law criminalized domestic violence, child marriage, treating a woman such that she resorted to suicide, and the buying and selling of women. However, only a small percentage of cases– 26 percent between March 2010 and March 2011 — have been investigated as crimes; indictments have been filed in only 7 percent of cases. As Health minister Suraya Dalil is quoted in the Guardian about the horrific treatment of Sahar Gul,
“This is the very most extreme case that we have seen. That a child, that a girl child has been abused, has been physically abused, psychologically abused. It is an issue that shows that we still need to work a lot with regard to education, with regard to awareness, with regard to social and economic development.”
In December, an Afghan family was attacked by gunmen and sprayed with acid in their home after the father had refused a man’s bid to marry his teenage daughter. In another case, 21-year-old Gulnaz was imprisoned after reporting that her husband’s cousin had raped her; she agreed to marry her attacker in order to be released and legitimize a daughter conceived in the attack. President Karzai has intervened to have her freed.
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