Friday, September 22, 2006

A UN-backed rights watchdog has expressed continuing concern over violence against women in Afghanistan

Golnaz Esfandiari:

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) released disturbing figures in mid-September on violence against women and girls, including dozens of cases of so-called honor killings.

Sixteen-year-old Mujahedeh was murdered by her own father -- ostensibly to redeem her family's "honor."

Her offense? Her family had accused her of bringing shame upon them by escaping a home in which she was subjected to daily beatings.

"She had enough," says Homa, a deputy director of a women's rights group called the Center for the Growth of the Talents of Afghan Women who got to know Mujahedeh. "She escaped home and went to the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Then she spent some time in a ministry shelter. She liked to go to school and was busy studying. She was enjoying [better] conditions and she didn't want to return to her family, but her mother insisted they'd let her go to school -- her mother said, 'Your father has forgiven your sin.' And she was finally forced to return to her relatives Later it was heard from a neighbor or someone else that her father had murdered her when she returned."

Homa describes the teenager as a happy girl who liked to read and write.

The Center for the Growth of the Talents of Afghan Women has produced a documentary based on the plights of Mujahedeh and other female victims of violence.

The movie is titled "Last Poem, Last Night," and it has casts a spotlight on a practice that women's rights defenders say is frighteningly prevalent in Afghanistan.

Most cases of honor killings go unreported, and perpetrators rarely face justice.

Police and judicial authorities often turn a blind eye to the practice.

In Mujahedeh's case, no one has been prosecuted. Her family claims that she died following a sickness. But workers at the shelter where she stayed say she didn't suffer from any evident health problems.

Dr. Soraya Sobrang, who heads the women's affairs division of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, tells RFE/RL that honor killings are widely accepted, and considered by many Afghans to be a private family matter.

Afghanistan: Muslim Honor Killings Increasing


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