Afghanistan: young woman shot dead by her father in front of 300 people for 'dishonouring' family

The killing of a young Afghan woman by her father in front of a large crowd last week - on the grounds that she had “dishonoured” the family - is further proof that the authorities are failing to tackle shocking levels of gender-based violence in the country, Amnesty International said today.

The woman, who has two Children's rights, was shot dead last Monday (22 April) by her father in front of a crowd of about 300 people in the village of Kookchaheel, in the Aabkamari district of Badghis province in north-western Afghanistan.

The woman, named Halima, who was believed to be between 18 and 20 years old, was accused of running away with a male cousin while her husband was in Iran. Her cousin returned Halima to her relatives ten days after running away with her. His whereabouts are unknown.

The killing came after three of the village’s religious leaders, allegedly linked to the Taliban, issued a fatwa (religious edict) that Halima should be killed publicly, after her father sought their advice about his daughter’s elopement. Halima’s father and the three religious council members who issued the fatwa have reportedly gone into hiding. The local police say they are investigating the case, but no one has yet been arrested in connection with the killing.

Amnesty International’s Afghanistan researcher Horia Mosadiq said:

“The deeply shocking practice of women being subjected to violent ‘punishments’, including killing, publicly or privately, must end.

“The authorities across Afghanistan must ensure that perpetrators of violence against women are brought to justice.

“Violence against women continues to be endemic in Afghanistan and those responsible very rarely face justice.

“Not only do women face violence at the hands of family members for reasons of preserving so-called ‘honour’, but frequently women face human rights abuses resulting from verdicts issued by traditional, informal justice systems. These systems must be reformed and the police must prevent such verdicts being carried out.”  

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) documented more than 4,000 cases of violence against women in a six-month period last year (21 March-21 October 2012) - a rise of 28% compared with the same period in the previous year. The AIHRC has also criticised the Afghan police in Baghdis for recruiting suspected perpetrators of such violence, including a Taliban commander and his 20 men implicated in the stoning to death of 45-year-old widow Bibi Sanuber for alleged adultery in 2010.

In August 2009, Afghanistan passed the Elimination of Violence against Women Law, which criminalises forced marriage, rape, beatings and other acts of violence against women.

“Afghanistan’s law for the elimination of violence against women is a very positive step, but it will not be useful unless it is properly enforced - something we haven’t seen so far,” said Horia Mosadiq.

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