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Pajhwok Afghan News, August 20, 2007

Violence Has Increased: Girls and Women's Escape their Homes

Harassments and torture of girls by their families is another reason behind girls leaving their homes.

By Farid Tanha and Zarghona Salihi (Translated by RAWA)

Kabul -Because of difference forms of violence against women and girls, the number of women escaping home has gone up in Parwan province.

Gulsoom is 17-years-old and married. Last year she tried to commit suicide - she failed. She set fire to herself but, against the odds, survived with appalling injuries. (BBC News, Dec.7, 2006)
More photos of self-immolation

Sayed Qasim Hashimi, director of Women Affairs Human Rights Branch in Parwan, told Pajhwok that last year only 10 incidents of escape of girls from their homes were registered but from the beginning of this year in almost 6 months, 29 cases had been registers with us.

According to him, in the last one week alone four girls from Charikar, center of Parwan province and five from Sayed khil, Saling and Jabalsaraj districts of this province had escaped homes for different reasons.

Shah Jan Yazdan Parast, head of Women's Affairs in Parwan province, believes that the main reason behind girls running away from their homes is the family's lack of interest in fulfilling their daughters' wishes and demands, forced marriages, organizing very expensive wedding parties…

From talking to people, it is obvious that the above mentioned reasons are driving force behind girls escaping homes and sometimes this result in another violence for example giving the girls in "bad" etc…

Parwin Gul, 45 resident of Charikar city whose daughter Shafiqa has escaped with a boy some 15 days ago says: "I wanted to engage my daughter to some one but when she heard this, she eloped with a boy of her choice and dishonored us."

According to Parwin Gul, her son wanted to end this incident violently but she stopped him and finally the issue was solved with the intervention of tribal leaders.

Parwin Gul said: "Because of the decision of the elders of the tribe, the family of the boy Shafiqa escaped with, give their six years old daughter in "bad" to my 16 years old son."

It must be said that giving in "bad" itself is a form of violence taking place against girls.

Moalavi Abdul Zahir, an Imam at the Sar Hoaz mosque of Jabalsaraj, says that giving girls in "bad" is not allowed in Islam. According to him, this conduct of giving in "bad" in fact is an oppression of girl who has to bear the burden of this bad tradition from the time of ignorance (before Islam) which must be abolished.

Sayed Qasim Hashimi, in response to a question that why government doesn't do any thing to stop this conduct, says that giving in "bad" of girls is a wrong tradition among people that has deep roots. He says authorities are trying to stop people from giving their daughters in "bad" through raising awareness about women's human and Islamic rights. Government's direct intervention in such cases is not acceptable for people.

It must be mentioned that giving in "bad" of girls is not happening only in Parwan but is usual practice in all other provinces too.

Organizing expensive wedding is another reason in some people's opinion which drive girls escape from home.

Gul Ahmad (50), resident of Ancho village of Sayed Khil district, believes that expensive wedding parties are one of the reasons that make girls run away. He says that in Parwan province because of some traditions for a wedding party a person should have at least 400 thousands Afghanis which is quite difficult to find in today's situation.

He added: "Some boys who are unable to find such a big amount are ready to bear other hostilities and difficulties and make the girls to escape with them."

Majir Agha, 18, resident of Sayed Khil district, is one of those who eloped with a girl of his choice and married her because he had no money to have an expensive wedding.

He said: "I couldn't raise 3 to 4 lak Afghanis in all my life so I had to choose the other way."

Toran General Mohammad Salim Ihsad, security chief of Parwan province, said that police are trying to find peaceful solutions when girls escape from home to avoid tribal and family bloodshed.

He said that some of the cases of the escapes have been settled either because of the intervention of police or elders of the tribes. Girls running away from homes sometimes have met violence even leading to their killings.

Photojournalist Paula Bronstein, who has photographed tens of self-immolation victims in the Herat Regional hospital Burn unit, wrote:
"The medical staff at the Herat hospital says that they have registered around 700 self-immolations cases so far this year."
Getty Images, November 16, 2006

Abdul Qadir (60), resident of Sar Hoaz of Jabalsaraj district of Parwan province, for example talks about a girl who had escaped with a boy from this district. But six years ago was brutally killed by her brothers.

Human rights activists and religious scholars state that a girl has the right to choose her husband but should not get this right by escaping from home. According to Sayed Qasim Hashmi, director of Women Affairs Human Rights branch in Parwan, a 16-years-old girl is legally capable of marrying a man of her choice. But according to his statement, girls escaping homes which result in violence, killing and problems among families is considered a crime.

Maolavi Abdulrahim Shah Aga, head of religious council of Parwan province, says girls running from home are contrary to Islamic teachings. In his opinion, both girls and boys have the right to choose their own life partners but girls running away with boys create problems in society and make their respective families dishonored.

Harassments and torture of girls by their families is another reason behind girls leaving their homes.

Shafiqa (25), resident of Tagar village of Jabalsaraj district, is one of those women who owing to torture and beatings by her husband, has fled and taken shelter in Women's Affairs Office in the province.

Last week, with gloomy looks, she told Pajhwok: "My husband would beat me on different excuses so I had to leave the home."

Shafiqa went to women's affair brunch intending to get divorce. She adds: "I will prefer death but will not go back to my husband."

Another woman who also had fled last week is in the women's affair branch, on the condition of annonymity, says that her husband and in laws would always beat her without any reason. She added: "several times I went to my parents' home but they want me to tolerate family problems. So this time I had to escape and now I am here''.

Director of women's affairs human branch of Parwan district says that because of these problems there have been ten incidents of break up, five incidents of separation and three cases of divorce in this province.

He without giving the exact number said that the rate of such incidents has gone higher compared to previous years. According to him both divorce and separation is getting usual and the difference is only that divorce is from husband side and separation is taking place on wives's demand under special conditions.

Escape of girls and women from home is taking place in some other provinces too.

Sorya Sobhrang, commissioner of women's issues of the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan, told Pajhwok that in 2007, 15 cases of escape of girls and women in Qondoz, 13 in Kabul, 6 in Ningarhar, 2 in Bamian, 1 in Heart and 1 in Qandahr were registered with the Commission.

She says that there might be many such cases which are not reported to the Commission. She believes that consistent family violence, forced and early marriages, beating, giving in "bad" etc are the main reason driving women to escape. In response to why such incidents have increased? Sobhrang said: "Fortunately women are now more aware of their rights and don't want any more to be abused by men. Therefore they escape."

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