In early November, Sadaf*, a 22-year-old university student, was found guilty of “moral crimes” in a northern province of Afghanistan. He was accused by local Taliban officials of speaking to a male family member who was not a “mahram”.
Since taking control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have imposed increased restrictions on women. gender discrimination in universities and public places such as gyms.
Sadaf said his entire family couldn’t sleep that night, lying awake and praying anxiously for the uncertain fate he faced.
“We didn’t know what my sentence would be and everyone was afraid they would kill me,” Sadaf told Al Jazeera.
“I was afraid they would kill my family as well. My mother prayed that the matter would be resolved with just a whip,” he said.
The Taliban invite large crowds into public spaces and stadiums to hold public demonstrations of punishments such as flogging. one on Wednesday The man was executed in front of everyone. in the province of Farah.
Abdul Rahim Rashid, head of press relations at the Afghan Supreme Court, told Al Jazeera, “I estimate as many as 80 people have been flogged since we took over Afghanistan.”
“Men and women were flogged for different crimes in Kabul, Logar, Laghman, Bamyan, Takhar and some other provinces,” he said.
Reports of public punishments in recent weeks have brought back memories of the Taliban’s harsh rule in the 1990s, when convicts were publicly stoned and beheaded.
The Taliban initially promised women’s rights and media freedom, but more than 15 months later, Afghanistan’s new rulers broke their promise. Girls’ high schools are still closed, women are excluded from public places, and free media is almost nonexistent.
this United Nations human rights office He said the execution in Farah, the first public execution since the Taliban’s return to power, was “disturbing” and called for an “immediate moratorium on further executions”.
But international pressure does not seem to have caused the Taliban to budge.
The international criticism, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted on Thursday, shows that foreigners “do not respect Muslims’ beliefs, laws and domestic issues, interfere in the internal affairs of countries and are condemned.
“Afghanistan is an Islamic country … they sacrificed a lot for the implementation of Islamic laws and system,” said Mujahid.
In a press release published on November 14, Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada ordered judges to fully enforce some aspects of the group’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, which included public executions, stoning, flogging and amputation.
Sadaf, a student of Islamic law, claimed he was wrongfully accused and refused a fair trial. The name of the university is not published for security reasons.
“About a month ago, on my way back from university, I was stopped by a local Taliban leader. He wanted to know why I rejected his son’s marriage proposal,” Sadaf said, adding that the same man had approached his father several times before.
“But I refused every time because I didn’t want to marry a Talib. [Taliban member]said.
“I told him that I know what women’s rights are in Islam, so if I don’t want to marry your son, no one can force me to do it. This made him very angry and he started calling me derogatory names.”
The 22-year-old accused the Taliban leader of blaming him for talking to a man he is not related to, which is punishable by the Taliban as a moral crime. “He told them [judges] that he saw me talking to the stranger; He was talking about the taxi driver I just got off from.”
Rashid, Head of Press Relations at the Supreme Court, denied the accusations, saying that the courts did not make any decisions without evidence.
“The courts examine the case files, the defendants are brought to the court of appeal, and a decision is made only after the confession is taken or the witnesses are presented,” he said.
Sadaf said his neighbors tried to persuade Talib to let him go, but to no avail. A local Taliban official later informed his father that he had been found guilty. He was not represented by a lawyer and the decision was announced in his absence.
“Them [Taliban judges] He said he would be forgiven if I married Talib’s son, but I did not accept it. I would rather die than marry him.
“My mother tried to persuade me, but my father stood by me saying, ‘It is better for my daughter to die once than to die every day.'”
‘The legitimacy of such cases’
The night before the execution of the sentence, Sadaf’s family read the Qur’an and prayed for Sadaf’s health.
“I hugged my brothers, kissed my mother, and begged her forgiveness. “So I told my father to stay strong and leave this province if something happened to me,” Sadaf said before going to a local mosque.
Taliban leaders, including his neighbors who brought charges against him, had gathered for punishment. He was ordered to be whipped in front of everyone.
“They formed a circle around me. My hands were tied and I was told not to shout because men shouldn’t hear women’s voices. Then I got flogged while my father stood in front of me begging Talib to forgive me, apologizing to them for a crime I didn’t commit,” he said.
Sadaf was flogged about 30 times before she fainted. He doesn’t remember how he moved into his house.
Human rights organizations are raising concerns about the increasing public flogging and other cruel punishments in Afghanistan.
“The public whipping of women and men is a brutal and shocking return to the harsh practices of the Taliban. Afghan activist and Amnesty International’s South Asian campaigner Samira Hamidi told Al Jazeera the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law. violates it and should not be performed under any circumstances.
The UN has expressed concern about cases where a defendant is arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced, often within the same day. Hamidi said that it raises questions about the legitimacy of such cases, which are conducted in the absence of a functioning justice system.
“The absence of remedies such as access to lawyers, formal legal mechanisms, and court hearings for the detainees has enabled the Taliban to re-impose their notorious justice, using interpretations of Islamic law or sharia as a tool.
Therefore, there is no legitimacy of such degrading and inhumane practices, and the use of violence and ill-treatment cannot be justified.”
‘Deep patriarchal society’
In a highly patriarchal society like Afghanistan, such punishments for women can have a much deeper effect than the flogging itself. “Being a woman whipped in public is also a direct threat to their cultural life,” Hamidi said. said.
“These women are not only losing social respect, they are also vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse by their families. They will be prosecuted, sacked or even lose their lives for disgracing their families and communities,” she said.
Cases like Sadaf’s underline the extent to which women’s rights have steadily deteriorated in Afghanistan. Women continue to lose access to the legal, political and social rights they have secured in the last 20 years since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001.
Richard Bennett, the UN’s special rapporteur on Afghanistan, presented his findings to the General Assembly committee in October, calling it “the worst country in the world to be a woman or a girl”.
In Sadaf’s case, the whips were far from the end of his ordeal. His family continued to face pressure from the Taliban leader to marry her off to his son.
“My father bought us time. He told Talib that he would arrange the marriage, but he wanted me to wait a few weeks for the wounds on my body to heal. He arranged our escape at the time,” she said.
With the help of his friends, his family fled to a different state in a car at midnight, where he continues to hide, facing an uncertain future.
“We don’t know how far we can escape, but we have to find an escape route. From his hiding place in Afghanistan,” Sadaf said, “Afghanistan has become a big prison where the Taliban can give you all kinds of punishment for no reason.”
* Sadaf’s name has been changed due to possible retaliation concerns.
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