Wed, tortured at 13, Afghan girl finds rare justice
When she refused to prostitute herself or have sex with the man she was forced to marry when she was 13, officials said, Sahar Gul's in-laws tortured her and threw her into a dirty, windowless cellar for months until the police discovered her lying in hay and animal dung.
In July, an appeals court upheld prison sentences of 10 years each for three of her in-laws, a decision heralded as a legal triumph underscoring advances for women's rights in the past decade. She is recovering from her wounds, physical and emotional, in a women's shelter in Kabul.
But to many rights advocates, Sahar's case, which drew attention from President Hamid Karzai and international media, is the exception that proves the rule: a small victory that masks a depressing picture of widespread instances of abuse of women that never come to light.
Sahar, now 14, grew up in Badakhshan, a poor, mountainous province in the north. As a young child she was shuffled around after her father died, ending up with her stepbrother, Mohammad. She was married off to Ghulam Sakhi last year. He took Sahar to his home in Baghlan, hundreds of miles away.
Frustrated that she could not perform the housework they expected, Sakhi's family put her in the cellar, where she slept on bare floor, her hands and feet tied. She was given only bread and water to eat. She was also beaten regularly. Sahar said most of the beatings were at the hand of Amanullah, Sakhi's father, who, she alleged, hit her with sticks, bit her chest, inserted hot irons in her ears and vagina and pulled out two fingernails. Sahar still bears the scars of her ordeal.
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