Zan Times, November 15, 2022
Children as young as 7 forced to marry Taliban members
Shazia is not the only child to be forced into a marriage with a Taliban member
Shazia* is seven years old, the age when Afghan children start school. But an education isn’t an option for Shazia, who lives in Kandahar city, the spiritual home of the Taliban. A month ago, her father forced her to marry a 22-year-old member of the Taliban, a relative tells Zan Times.
“One day after the wedding, Shazia was whimpering and wanted to go back to her father’s house, but her in-laws did not allow her,” says the relation. The mullah imam who performed the wedding of this child says, “This marriage was done with the consent of the agents of both parties.”
Shazia is not the only child to be forced into a marriage with a Taliban member by her father. Another girl in Kandahar city, Mina*, is set to wed a Taliban commander who is 37 years her senior. She is just eight.
“Mina’s authority is in the hands of her father, and he engaged Mina to a Taliban official for 15 lakh afghanis (US$13,000)” explains one of Mina’s relatives to Zan Times. This source, who asked that his name not be used, says that Mina still hopes that her family will not force her to go through with the marriage, though this relation says there is nothing that he can do because he is afraid of Mina’s fiancÚ. Still, he has tried to change her father’s mind. “I asked her father not to play with his daughter’s fate, but he said, ‘It is not your business. I have my daughter’s authority,’” the relation explains.
These forced marriages occur even though the Taliban issued a decree in December 2021 that stated “women are not property, but free and real human” and “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure.” The edict was attributed to Mullah Hibatullah, the Taliban’s supreme leader. Eight months later, Amnesty International reported that “the rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan are surging under Taliban rule” and that two causes are “families forcing women and girls to marry Taliban members; and Taliban members forcing women and girls to marry them.”
Women and daughters of members of the previous government’s security forces are also at high risk of forced marriages to Taliban members. In August, Elaha Delawarezi, a third-year student at Kabul Medical University and the daughter of a former officer of the NDSA (National Directorate Security of Afghanistan), released a series of videos in which she recounted her rape, torture, and forced marriage to a former Taliban spokesperson. After her story went viral, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, “It would be no surprise for a Taliban official to feel free to inflict forced marriage, rape, assault, nonconsensual filming, and blackmail. The question is how many such cases go unheard.” Using the hashtag, #JusticeForElaha,” HRW also stated that a journalist had “corroborated facts about Elaha’s case and said Taliban officials have similarly targeted female relatives of other former government officials with violence to punish their male family members.”
In August, another daughter of a member of the former government security services was also forced to marry a Talib. Her name is Laila, and she is just 13 years old. “Her father was killed by the Taliban two years ago. His mother earns her living by selling dairy products,” a neighbour recounts to Zan Times. “One day, when they went to the bazaar, they were arrested by the Taliban.”
The neighbour learned of their arrest when Laila’s 10-year-old sister asked for help. “Laila’s younger sister came to us because she was worried about her mother and sister. We searched everywhere but did not find them. For two days, the neighbors brought bread and food to this girl so that she would not be hungry. After two days, her mother was released,” explains the neighbour. Her account of what happened to her daughter shows just how vulnerable females are in today’s Afghanistan.
“Laila’s mother was screaming and crying that the Taliban arrested them because her husband was a former military member,” says the neighbour. “The Taliban said that they did not have a mahram,” or a close male relative whom the Taliban says must accompany women when they leave their homes.
Laila’s mother was told by the Taliban member that she and her daughter would cause “moral corruption” in society and that Laila had to marry a Taliban member. Laila is reportedly his third wife.
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