Afghan officials claimed to be shocked and appalled like the rest of the world when they learned that 15-year-old Sahar Gul was held in her in-laws' basement for the past seven months while they starved and tortured her. However, sources now say that Gul actually managed to escape the house at one point, but she was returned to the home by local authorities, who are accustomed to looking the other way when it comes to crimes against women.
Gul was discovered last week when an uncle notified authorities, and she's currently being treated for severe injuries. While it was first reported that Gul was trapped in her in-laws' basement shortly after her wedding seven months ago, according to The Guardian, a local community leader identified as Ziaulhaq says she left the house four months ago:
She ran away to her neighbour's house and told them that her husband was trying to make her become a prostitute. 'If you are a Muslim, you must tell the government what is happening to me,' she told them.
The neighbors say they went to the police, but when officers confronted Gul's mother-in-law, she tried to fight them off and screamed that the girl had to obey because her son had "bought" her, a reference to the girl's dowry. Ziaulhaq claims government officials were bribed to keep quiet, and agreed to return Gul to the home as long as they promised to stop abusing her.
Fauzia Kufi, an MP who campaigns on women's issues, says that even after Gul's family discovered the extent of the abuse, they were pressured to work things out with her in-laws instead of reporting the crime. "Even the local authorities have blamed the department for women's affairs for not trying to solve it locally between families in the traditional way," says Kufi.
Local officials insist the claims are untrue and they never tried to resolve the issue quietly among the families. Yet, the Baghlan province's women's affairs chief seemed to acknowledge that Gul escaped at one point, though she said she couldn't remember why she was returned to the home. Government officials have suggested that terrible crimes against women are mainly taking place in the countryside, but Gul was kept in the mid-sized town of Puli Khumri. The details of her case only reinforce reports from human rights activists who say that the abuse of women is still a huge problem throughout Afghanistan.
Afghan Child Bride Had Escaped Torturers But Was Sent Back [The Guardian]