The Times, November 12, 2011
“Out-of-touch” EU damned by words of praise from Kabul rapist
A convicted Afghan rapist has thanked the EU for censoring a documentary about his crime
By Jerome Starkey
Screengrab of the documentary. (Photo: BBC News)
Assadullah Sher Mohammad, who is serving 12 years in Kabul's notorious Pul-e Charkhi jail for raping and making pregnant a 19-year-old relative, said the EU "had done a good thing". Yet his endorsement, first delivered when The Times visited him in jail two months ago and reiterated by his brother yesterday, has highlighted the EU's growing isolation.
Yesterday, women's activists, rights groups and the UN all sided with the principle of free speech and the victim's right to be heard. Georgette Gagnon, the head of the UN's human rights team in Afghanistan, said: "More exposure to these issues is one of the most effective ways to end such abuses and ensure that women get more protection."Free trial
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, one of the country's oldest women's rights groups, accused the EU of "treason against Afghan women". Human Rights Watch said their ordeal was "grotesque".
The Times revealed yesterday that the EU had commissioned a film about women's rights, but had decided to block its broadcast days before it was due to be screened citing "very real concerns about the women's safety".
The film, In-Justice, follows two women jailed for moral crimes, and exposes the bias against women in Afghanistan's justice system. Gulnaz, who gave birth to Mohammad's baby on the floor of her jail cell, was sentenced to 12 years for adultery after she reported her ordeal to the police.
Although she never expected the film would win her freedom, she told the director Clementine Malpas she hoped it might save other women from a similar fate. "When everybody sees this it will be a lesson for them, and these things won't happen in Afghanistan," Gulnaz said.
Zoe Leffler, an EU attache in Kabul, told filmmakers the delegation had to "consider its relations with (Afghanistan's) justice institutions".
A spokeswoman for the RAWA, Reena Haris, said: "This is not the first time that the EU and other so-called champions of human rights have prioritised their support for warlords and mafia drug-lords seated in ministries . . . instead of voicing our ill-fated people's pains."
Gulnaz said she was resigned to marrying her rapist, because it was her only way of getting out of jail and she did not want her daughter to grow up without a father.
Mohammad Agha, the rapist's brother, said her story was a lie, warning that he would "never forgive her" even if the pair married.
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