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Torture and Sexual violence in Afghanistan

By Musa Khan Jalalzai

The year 2016 was a terrible year for Afghan women, girls and young children who were brutally raped, killed, kidnapped and tortured by war criminals or police and army officers, or the IS commanders. A woman, Farkhanda, was brutally killed outside a mosque; another two, Shokria and Tabasum, were decapitated, one more, Rukhshanda, was stoned to death in Northern Afghanistan, three women, Zainab, Mheri and Mariam, were killed in their struggle for freedom. Rezia Gul’s husband cut off her nose while another six-year-old girl was raped by a mullah.

During the last nine months, more than 700 women have attempted suicide in Herat Province whereas self-immolation has also increased by an alarming rate. In February 2017, more than 11 Afghan vandals raped a teen for more than two months before severely torturing her. Women are condemned as troublesome, evil, ghosts and even half humans in Afghan society. Thousands of Afghan women are experiencing domestic violence, in which their bodies are mutilated; organs are removed; particularly ears, noses and hands are cut off. On February 3, 2017, a 23-year-old Afghan woman had her ears cut off by her husband. She still lives in fear and anxiety. “He woke up early in the morning, tied my hands and legs and cut up my ears,” Zarina told media sources. She bled through the night until a neighbour rushed her to the hospital. There are numerous similar stories where women have been tortured, humiliated and stoned to death by their husbands across the country, but the government has not yet taken any of these incidents seriously. Women, who had previously attempted to commit suicide to escape rape and violence, girls living with irksome memories of sexual violence and torture, and young children, who never mention their stories of sexual humiliation at the hands of warlords, war criminals, police and army commanders, still live in a frightening environment.

Due to the three-decades-long war, poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment on top of the consecutive migration crisis, Afghanistan continues to remain the worst place for girls and young children. According to Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission report, more than 500,000 children are working in streets and markets, and most of them are sexually abused. The paramilitary forces, police and government officials are all deeply involved in episodes of drug and sexual abuse against women and children. Women and young girls have been confined to their houses due to excessive street harassment. Working women are being harassed in both government and private  offices and in army barracks. They are forced to marry their bosses otherwise, they could lose their jobs. The story of a beautiful teen who was repeatedly tortured and even raped cannot be forgotten. On July 12, 2016, Miss Zuhra, a 14-year-old teen was four months pregnant when she was stabbed and finally set on fire by illiterate in-laws after she refused to work in the poppy field in Ghor province.

Her transmogrified body was shifted to one of Kabul’s hospitals where she died on July 17, 2016. However, on August 25, 2016, Rihana, an 18-year-old girl was killed in Feroz Koh districts. Afghan teenagers often experience the same fate when they are kidnapped by Afghan army and police commanders in various parts of the country. On September 20, 2015, New York Times, a US newspaper, reported a US army officer, Gregory Buckly, told his father during a telephone call about the sexual abuse of boys by Afghan army officers in their barracks. “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,”he said.

Rampant child sexual assaults and the practice of bachabazi in Afghan army headquarters and barracks as well as in police stations is a matter of great concern for the Afghan government in addition to the international community. New York Times once reported a former US Special Forces Captain as saying, “The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights but we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did  that was something village elders voiced to me.” On April 12, 2016, a Canadian newspaper reported an investigation report released by the Defence Department about the sexual abuse of boys by Afghan military officers in their units and barracks. The 107-pages report concluded that Canadian soldiers witnessed or suspected that sexual acts were occurring between the Afghan army officers and innocent children.

“These reports include incidents of oral sex and genital fondling under clothing”, it noted. Canadian medical corps also treated both male and female for rectal damage that had resulted from sexual assault. Sgt. Charles Martland, an army official, said that he once tried to stop an Afghan police commander as he had allegedly chained a young boy to his bed, repeatedly raping him. The 2013 US State Department report on human rights also noted that Afghan forces rape young children with impunity. Having sensed the shaming business of his security forces, President Ashraf Ghani warned that child sex or bachabazi in security ranks was a crime. The US lawmakers also warned that this business can demoralise Afghan army and the police. Other under whelming reports indicate that Afghan army commanders and police officers were found involved in kidnapping young children in broad daylight without informing their families, later incarcerating them in secret places and raping them for days, even months.

Recent research shows that Afghan women and children encounter numerous challenges while trying to access justice. In remote villages, due to a lack of women prisons, women prisoners are handed over to Maliks and the opulent who sexually abuse these women and share them with friends. On March 7, 2016, Afghan Pajhwok News reported that Assadullah Wazir, a provincial attorney, had admitted that due to the lack of women prisons, convicted females were handed over to tribal Maliks. Women’s Affairs Director, Bibi Hawa also complained that women were being handed over to tribal elders. On October 11, 2016, Daily Mail reported that an 18-years-old was handed over to a Malik where she worked as an unpaid servant, entirely under his control. “I was treated like an animal and kept like a slave,” she told media sources. The writer is author of “Fixing the EU Intelligence Crisis”.



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