May 31 2010
Two young (13 & 14) Afghan girls who tried to escape their forced arranged marriages were caught at a police checkpoint and sent back to their village where they were publicly whipped 40 times each for trying to flee.
The girls were disguised in boys clothes and had been fleeing for two days through rough terrain from their marriages to older men before they were caught by a policeman in January who ignored their pleas for help and immediately sent them back to their village knowing what awaited them, even though flogging is illegal.
The girls’ abusers videotaped the entire ordeal, but sympathizers with the victims were able to smuggle out this graphic video and get it to the independently operated Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, which released the video on the weekend.
In the video, the girl barely flinches and two men take turns administrating the lashes to the girl’s legs and buttocks. The girl uses her head scarf to cover part of her face and her eyes are closed for most of the flogging. The mullah doing the flogging waits for another man to cover the girl’s face with her scarf before continuing with the punishment. A loud crack can be heard each time the leather strap meets the girl’s body.
New York Times reports according to a Unicef study, from 2000 to 2008, the brides in 43% of Afghan marriages were under 18. Although the Afghan Constitution forbids the marriage of girls under the age of 16, tribal Muslim customs often condone marriage once puberty is reached, or even earlier. Flogging is also illegal.
The Times reports that the two girls from central Afghanistan were also beaten by their forced husbands after refusing to consummate the marriage. When the girls were caught, instead of being referred to a nearby women’s shelter, were returned to former warlord Fazil Ahad Khan, who the Human Rights Commission describes as a self-appointed morals enforcer for the girls’ small village.
Women from the local shelter describe their forced marriages to the Times reporter. One girl says she was sold to pay off her father’s debts when she was 12. Her husband’s family then beat her and used her as a servant.