Monday, 13 July 2015

Afghanistan: No Country for Women

Under the Taliban women were banned from going to school and working. They were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative or be seen in public without a burqa. For defying the regime's repressive laws, women were openly flogged and executed.
But 13 years after the fall of the Taliban, and despite the influx of billions of dollars in development aid, many Afghan women are still living in terror.
A report by Global Rights estimates that almost 90 percent of women experience physical, sexual or psychological abuse or forced marriage. Overwhelmingly, it is their families who are committing these crimes.
"It's a question of control and power," said Sima Samar, a prominent women's rights activist and chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. "You use religion, you use culture, you use tradition, you use gender to keep the power, to keep control."
When Mariam, 25, got married five years ago, she never imagined that she would end up in a shelter.
"When I first saw my husband I thought he was the right man for me," she said, sitting on the floor of the shelter with her head covered in a black scarf.
"I thought I'd have someone to share my pain and my secrets with. I'd have children and live a happy life."
But she says the abuse began almost immediately. Without warning, her husband would erupt into violent rages, at times threatening her with a loaded gun or dragging her by her hair through their home.
When she tried to seek help from the police, they released her husband after a few hours. Even her parents refused to help her, returning her to her in-laws after assurances that she would not be beaten.
Mariam says her husband was diagnosed with a mental illness and prescribed medication. But the torment continued.
"I thought about killing myself but I couldn't go through with it because I was pregnant. I was so tired. Most of the time I didn't even have the energy to defend myself and nobody was there to defend me," she said, showing no emotion.

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