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The Scotsman, February 5, 2011

Stoning victim was bought bride

Many people prefer Taleban justice as government courts are notoriously corrupt, and the insurgents offer swift, if brutal verdicts

By Jerome Starkey

A YOUNG woman stoned to death in Afghanistan's north had run away from home because her father had sold her into marriage with a wealthy relative, The Scotsman can reveal.

Woman stoned to death in Afghanistan
''For Siddqa, the hole where she stood is now her grave'' (Photo: BBC)
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Sediqa, thought to be in her early twenties, fled her village with another man, when she realised the "fiancé" who bought her was old and already married. Neighbours said the man, who has not been named, paid between £5,000-£7,500, a huge sum for an impoverished rural family but nonetheless plausible after many years of rising prices for brides in a society riven by the practice.

Gruesome footage of Sediqa's execution, captured on a mobile phone, was broadcast around the world last week, sparking an international outcry.

Yet, despite widespread condemnation and a pledge from Afghan president Hamid Karzai to bring the killers to justice, just one person has been arrested.

A local elder, who spoke to Sediqa's neighbours in Mullah Quli village for The Scotsman yesterday, said she threatened to kill herself when she found what her father had done.

"Sediqa's father sold her to a man who was already married," said Juma Qol, who witnessed the executions last August. "Her neighbours said this man was a distant relative and he had visited their house a few times, but Sediqa didn't realise he was her fiancé. She did not know that her father had sold her and she didn't know that the man was already married."

A report by the United Nations published in December warned high bride prices were fuelling the "commodification of women and girls". In Kunduz, it warned of a trafficking ring that specifically targeted Sediqa's Turkman ethnic group.

"She had liked another boy for a long time," said Mr Qol. "When she found out, she ran straight away to his house."

Confusingly, the man Sediqa then eloped with, Abdul Qayoum, an ethnic Pashtun, was already married with two children. However, at around 28 years old, he was much closer to Sediqa's age and she had known him for several years.

"She went to the boy's house and said, 'If you don't help me escape, I will kill myself in front of you'. So he had no choice," Mr Qol added.

The couple spent just three nights away. Some neighbours said they fled to Kabul, others said they had gone to Pakistan, until their parents persuaded them to return with a guarantee that they would not be harmed and that they would be allowed to marry.

Instead, they were arrested by the Taleban, tried in front of four fundamentalist clerics, and stoned to death the next day. Although neither family had close links to the insurgents, the elders said Sediqa's parents approached the Taleban in bid to save face.

At the time, the area was under Taleban control, although it has since fallen to the government. Even now, there is only one government judge in the district centre, but no prosecutors.

Many people prefer Taleban justice as government courts are notoriously corrupt, and the insurgents offer swift, if brutal verdicts.

Both families have since fled their homes. Police investigating the killings said they had made contact with Sediqa's parents, in Mazar-e-Sharif, but they suspect Abdul Qayoum's relatives have fled over the border into Tajikistan.

Although it was not captured on the video, eyewitnesses said the couple had declared their love for each other moments before the barbaric sentences were carried out.

The harrowing footage shows Sediqa trying to crawl out of a pit where the stoning took place, before a rock the size of a grapefruit strikes her head. She was eventually shot three times.

The UN report on Harmful Traditional Practices, which claimed more than half of all Afghan marriages involve children under 16, warned that bride prices had "turned marriage into a transaction where girls are effectively sold to the highest bidder".

Category: Taliban/ISIS/Terrorism, Women, HR Violations - Views: 21301