It was bad enough that the alleged rape took place in the sanctity of a mosque, and that the accused man was a mullah who invoked the familiar defence that it had been consensual sex.
But the victim was only 10 years old. And there was more: The authorities said her family members openly planned to carry out an “honour killing” in the case — against the young girl. The mullah offered to marry his victim instead.
This past week, the awful matter became even worse. On Tuesday, local policemen removed the girl from the shelter that had given her refuge and returned her to her family, despite complaints from women’s activists that she was likely to be killed.
The head of the Women for Afghan Women shelter here where the girl took refuge, Dr Hassina Sarwari, was at one point driven into hiding by death threats from the girl’s family and others.
The accused mullah, Mohammad Amin, was arrested and confessed to having sex with the girl after Quran recitation classes at the mosque on May 1, but claimed that he thought the girl was older and that she responded to his advances.
The girl’s own testimony, and medical evidence, supported a rape so violent that it caused a fistula, or a break in the wall between the vagina and rectum, according to the police and the official bill of indictment. She bled so profusely after the attack that she was at one point in danger of losing her life.
Photographs of the girl that Sarwari took in the hospital clearly show a pre-pubescent child, and the doctor said the girl weighed only 40 pounds. The girl’s mother said she was 10, and a forensic examination in the hospital agreed.
In the photographs, which Sarwari displayed recently, the girl has beautiful alabaster features and inky black hair cut in a pageboy style. She lay in her hospital bed under a quilted blanket with cartoon characters on it.
Such honour killings in rape cases are common in Afghanistan, and are often more important to the victim’s family than vengeance against the attacker. Human rights groups say about 150 honour killings a year come to light.
When Sarwari, who is a pediatrician, arrived to pick up the girl at the hospital, a crowd of village elders from the girl’s home village were gathered outside the hospital; the girl’s brothers, father and uncle were among them. Inside, Sarwari encountered the girl’s aunt, who told her she had been ordered by her husband to sneak the girl out of the hospital and deliver her to the male relatives outside. “She said they wanted to take her and kill her, and dump her in the river,” Sarwari said. nyt