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Ragazze adolescenti frustate perché fuggivano da matrimoni forzati

Da SAWA Australia

Estratto da The New York Times

Teenage girls flogged for running away from forced marriage

Disguised in boys’ clothes, two girls aged 13 and 14 had been fleeing for two days along rutted roads and over mountain passes into Herat Province to escape their illegal, forced marriages to much older men. A police officer spotted them as girls, ignored their pleas and sent them back to their remote village in Ghor Province. There they were publicly and viciously flogged for daring to run away from their husbands.

Their tormentors, who videotaped the abuse, were not the Taliban, but local mullahs and the former warlord, now a pro-government figure who largely rules the district where the girls live. Sympathizers of the victims smuggled out two video recordings of the floggings to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which released them on Saturday after unsuccessfully lobbying for government action.

According to a Unicef study, from 2000 to 2008, the brides in 43 percent of Afghan marriages were under 18. Although the Afghan Constitution forbids the marriage of girls under the age of 16, tribal customs often condone marriage once puberty is reached, or even earlier. Flogging is also illegal.

Forced into a so-called marriage exchange, where each girl was given to an elderly man in the other’s family, the girls later complained that their husbands beat them when they tried to resist consummating the unions. Dressed as boys, they escaped.

Although Herat has shelters for battered and runaway women and girls, the police instead contacted the former warlord, Fazil Ahad Khan, whom Human Rights Commission workers describe as the self-appointed commander and morals enforcer in his district in Ghor Province, and returned the girls to his custody. The girls were sentenced to 40 lashes each and flogged on Jan. 12.

In the video, the mullah, under Mr. Khan’s approving eye, administers the punishment with a leather strap, which he appears to wield with as much force as possible, striking each girl in turn on her legs and buttocks with a loud crack each time. Their heavy red winter chadors are pulled over their heads so only their skirts protect them from the blows.

 

The spectators are mostly armed men wearing camouflage uniforms, and at least three of them openly videotape the floggings. No women are present.

“I was shocked when I watched the video,” said Mohammed Munir Khashi, an investigator with the Human Rights Commission. “I thought in the 21st century such a criminal incident could not happen in our country. It’s inhuman, anti-Islam and illegal.”

Fawzia Kofi, a prominent female member of Parliament, said the case may be shocking but is far from the only one. “I’m sure there are worse cases we don’t even know about,” she said. “Early marriage and forced marriage are the two most common forms of violent behavior against women and girls.”

The Human Rights Commission took the videotapes and the results of its investigation to the governor of Ghor Province, Sayed Iqbal Munib, who formed a commission to investigate it but took no action, saying the district was too insecure to send police there. A coalition of civic groups in the province called for his dismissal over the matter. Nor has Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry replied to demands from the commission to take action in the case, according to the commission’s chairwoman, Sima Samar.

Poverty is the motivation for many child marriages, either because a wealthy husband pays a large bride-price, or just because the father of the bride then has one less child to support. “Most of the time they are sold,” Ms. Naderi said. “And most of the time it’s a case where the husband is much, much older.”

She said it was also common practice among police officers who apprehend runaway child brides to return them to their families. “Most police don’t understand what’s in the law, or they’re just against it,” she said.

On Saturday, at the Women for Afghan Women shelter, at a secret location in Kabul, there were four fugitive child brides. All had been beaten, and most wept as they recounted their experiences.

Sakhina, a 15-year-old Hazara girl from Bamian, was sold into marriage to pay off her father’s debts when she was 12 or 13.

Her husband’s family used her as a domestic servant. “Every time they could, they found an excuse to beat me,” she said. “My brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my husband, all of them beat me.”

Sumbol, 17, a Pashtun girl, said she was kidnapped and taken to Jalalabad, then given a choice: marry her tormentor, or become a suicide bomber. “He said, ‘If you don’t marry me I will put a bomb on your body and send you to the police station,’” Sumbol said.

Roshana, a Tajik who is now 18, does not even know why her family gave her in marriage to an older man in Parwan when she was 14. The beatings were bad enough, but finally, she said, her husband tried to feed her rat poison.

In some ways, the two girls from Ghor were among the luckier child brides. After the floggings, the mullah declared them divorced and returned them to their own families.

Two years earlier, in nearby Murhab district, two girls who had been sold into marriage to the same family fled after being abused, according to a report by the Human Rights Commission. But they lost their way, were captured and forcibly returned. Their fathers — one the village mullah — took them up the mountain and killed them.

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