Monday, May 01, 2006


The following was reported earlier this year in an article in the New York Times on the current lot of women in Afghanistan.

"Homa is a typical young woman born and raised in rural Afghanistan. At 16 she was married and gave birth to a baby boy. After her husband was killed in the wars racking her country, Homa chose to remain a widow. The years rolled by uneventfully until a cousin, whose marriage offer she had rejected, found her home alone and raped her. She didn't dare report the assault -- rape is not against the law in Afghanistan, and women are commonly arrested for sex crimes if they speak out. However, the next time her cousin came, Homa was prepared. She defended herself with kerosene and a match, sending the man to the hospital."

"The man's father was sympathetic. At first he believed that Homa was acting in self-defense, but when his son died of complications, he demanded recompense. If Homa's father would give him several sheep, and Homa's two younger sisters, all would be forgiven. The court hearing the case stood poised to approve the agreement, but Homa refused. The judge was perplexed by Homa's disregard for social harmony and sentenced her to 15 years in prison."

The Times didn't report anything about what Homa's life was like after that.

Below you'll get an idea.

The following is from IRIN.

AFGHANISTAN: Misery for female prisoners

MAZAR-E SHARIF, 1 May (IRIN) - Lailoma, 10, has been living in squalid conditions with her imprisoned mother in a provincial jail in Mazar-e Sharif, capital of the northern Afghan province of Balkh, for years. "I cannot live without my mother, brothers and sister who have been here with me for a long time," grinned Lailoma.

Nisar Ahmad, 8, Lailoma's brother, has no idea about life outside the prison as he has been living in a poorly ventilated, dark room with a tiny window and small yard most of his life. "How can I go outside when the door is always locked and my mother is here?" he asked.

Although Lailoma and Nisar Ahmad have not been charged with any crime, they have become prisoners along with their mother, 35-year-old Tordai, charged with the killing of her husband. With nowhere to go, they stay with their convicted mother - the only parent - in the dilapidated facility.

"My four children have been living with me here in jail for nearly five years. This has become another headache for my miserable life with daily quarrelling and arguing," said the emaciated mother, sitting on a small plastic sheet in her prison cell.

"They [the children] have the same conditions as we do here in the jail," Tordai complained. "They have become illiterate … with no means of learning and studying here."

Shafiqa, 20, another female inmate, charged with adultery, complained about poor conditions in the detention facility. "There are no doctors, no medicine and not enough food to eat for us here," she said. The young women escaped from home two years ago after she was married to a man against her will.

Tordai and Shafiqa - along with other 12 female inmates and their 15 children - share the facility with 236 male prisoners in a mud-built compound, which was originally the city's traffic police department. The building has only two small yards and just nine cells for both male and female convicts.

The lack of space means those awaiting trial languish with the convicted in the same cells, Col Abdulrub, in charge of the prison, said.

"In addition to a lack of proper medicine and health care here, the issue of very old and overcrowded rooms is another trouble for prisoners living in this compound," Abdulrub explained, adding that up to 30 prisoners were living in a room originally built for 10 inmates.

Prison authorities in Mazar also complained about a lack of foodstuffs, proper medicine and education facilities for children living alongside their mothers in the prison.

"The government is only providing less then US $1 for each inmate per day, which cannot even buy their dry bread," the prison official said.

Rights bodies have expressed concern over poor prison conditions in the destitute central Asian state.

There are 34 prisons across the country and many lack separate buildings for female prisoners, many of whom are kept in cells in prisons originally built for male inmates.

"Some 90 children are living with their mothers, who have been charged with different crimes, without any kindergartens and other facilities for their development in all the prisons of the country," Azizi claimed.

"Prison conditions in Afghanistan remain extremely poor and prisoners generally have to rely on relatives for their food and other expenditures," the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said in its annual report for 2005.

"Prisons and their staff are severely under-resourced and no training is provided to them about caring for prisoners or their duties with regards to the human rights of prisoners," the report read.

According to the report, the rights body had helped secure the release of 1,386 illegally detained persons and removed 27 children from adult prison cells in 2005.

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