KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan father was on a quest for justice Monday after saying that his pregnant 14-year-old daughter was burned to death by her in-laws, the latest reported case of violence against women in the country.
Afghanistan faces serious human rights issues, including physical and sexual violence against women and so-called honor killings that often involve immolation.
The 45-year-old father, Mohammad Azam, said that he came to the capital, Kabul, to seek justice for his daughter Zarah. He told The Associated Press that she was tortured and set on fire by her husband’s family last week. She died in a Kabul burns hospital on Saturday.
Azam said Zarah’s killing, which happened in a remote area of central Ghor province, was in revenge after he had eloped two years ago with a young cousin of his daughter’s husband.
Zarah’s in-laws had struck a marriage deal with him, Azam said, letting him marry the cousin in payment for a debt they owed him for construction work. But they later reneged on the deal, he said, after promising the cousin to another man for more money.
Azam said he had no hope for justice in lawless Ghor. “The culprits should be brought to justice, my daughter’s blood must not go in vain,” he said.
The practice of baad — trading young women to pay debts — is illegal in Afghanistan, and Azam himself could face prosecution for engaging in the practice.
While Ghor province has often been the source of reports of young women being abused by their families or stoned to death after being accused of adultery or running away from home, such incidents occur also elsewhere in the country.
About 50 people, including Azam, members of his family and women’s rights activists, rallied on Monday in western Kabul, calling for justice. Women’s rights activist Veeda Saghari, who attended the demonstration, said violence against women is largely ignored by Afghanistan’s judicial sector.
“That is why all kinds of violence against women such as acid throwing, beating, stoning, informal community tribunal verdicts, burning, forced divorces, forced marriages, forced pregnancies, forced abortions have reached a peak,” she said.
Last year in Kabul, 29-year-old Farkhunda Malikzada was beaten to death by a mob after being falsely accused by a peddler at a mosque of burning a Quran, the Muslim holy book. It later emerged that she had been telling him to stop selling amulets to women who came to pray for pregnancy.
Her killing shocked the country and the world, highlighting the status of women in Afghanistan despite constitutional guarantees meant to safeguard against violence against women.