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Afghan women inmates accused of moral crimes

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  • Sunny
    http://news.kuwaittimes.net/2013/04/09/afghan-women-inmates-accused-of-moral-crimes/ Afghan women inmates accused of moral crimes KABUL: The 21-year-old Afghan
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 9, 2013
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      Afghan women inmates accused of moral crimes

      afghan 300x203 Afghan women inmates accused of moral crimesKABUL: The 21-year-old Afghan woman said she fled her abusive husband only to be raped at gunpoint by a stranger who was supposed to help her. The man then settled in front of a TV set, putting the gun on a table by his side. Choosing her moment, Mariam grabbed it and shot her assailant in the head, then turned the gun on herself. “Three days later I woke up in the hospital,” said Mariam, shyly removing a scarf from her head to reveal a partially shaved head and a long jagged scar that ran almost the length of her head where the bullet grazed her scalp. From the hospital, Mariam was sent to a police station and from there to Afghanistan’s main women’s prison, Badam Bagh, which in Pashto means Almond Garden.

      She is one of 202 inmates in a jail mostly filled with women serving time for so-called “moral” crimes. Many had sought justice for domestic violence or tried to run away from an abusive situation. Under international pressure, Afghanistan has made some progress in advancing women’s rights after years of repressive Taliban rule that banned girls from going to school and forced women to wear all-encompassing burqas and leave their homes only when accompanied by a male relative. But the country remains a deeply conservative society run by men who most often turn to tribal jirgas that routinely hand down rulings offering up girls and women to settle debts and disputes. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Badam Bagh prison, built by the Italian government six years ago to house female inmates from the Kabul area. The Associated Press recently was given rare access to the facility. More than two-thirds of the 202 inmates are serving sentences of up to seven years for leaving their husbands, refusing to accept an arranged marriage, or leaving their parents’ home with a man of their choice, according to the prison’s director, Zaref Jan Naebi. The rest face theft, assault or narcotics charges. Two women are in jail on murder.

      Some of the women were jailed while pregnant, others with their small children. Naebi said 62 children are living with their imprisoned mothers, sharing the same gray, steel bunk beds and napping in the afternoon behind a sheet draped from the upper bunk, oblivious to the chatter and the crackling noises from the small TV sets shoved off to one side of the rooms. Before the two-story prison, named for the sprawling almond orchard across the street, was built, female prisoners were held in rundown cement cellblocks in the center of Kabul in a jail that predated the Taliban. Others were locked up in the notorious Pule- Charkhi jail, which also houses 1,300 male inmates. At Badam Bagh, six inmates live in cells originally intended to house four.

      Mariam has spent the past three months in one of them, without any idea of why she was imprisoned, what charges she faces or when she can leave. “I haven’t gone to court. I am just waiting,” Mariam said, hugging a ratty brown sweater to protect her from the damp cold of the prison. While it might not be against the law to run away or escape a forced marriage, the courts routinely convict women fleeing abusive homes with “the intent to commit adultery,” which are most often simply referred to as “moral crimes,” says a United Nations report released last month.

      It also said most cases of abuse go unreported. The directorgeneral of prisoners, Gen Amer Mohammad Jamsheed, said about 650 women are jailed nationwide, and “most are in jail for moral crimes.” — AP

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