increasing power of the Taliban, both of which have given rise to sexist views and the acceptance of gruesome penalties such as honor killings. There is little government control or intervention in Ghor; subsequently, there has not been a single suspect arrested in any of the 118 registered cases of violence against women in the past year. This number, of course, only covers officially reported cases. In such a province, the number of cases that are unaccounted for is surely just as great, if not greater.
Honor killings, or the murder of women for dishonoring their families with supposedly immoral acts, are frequent and unpenalized in Ghor. As punishment for eloping with lovers, committing adultery, fleeing abusive marriages, or even becoming pregnant from rape, women as young as teenagers—such as 19-year-old Rokhshana in 2015—are sometimes stoned, shot, flogged, or burned alive. Although the national Afghan Criminal Procedure Code does not certify these women’s acts of “immorality” as crimes, the dominant religious and/or Taliban courts in Ghor encourage and facilitate these indictments.
In tandem with the traditional culture of the area and the insurgency of the Taliban, the federal and regional government’s influence in the remote, fundamentalist province of Ghor is extremely limited. When female politician Seema Joyenda was appointed to serve as provincial governor of Ghor, there were hopes of not only improving security in the area but also changing the area’s views on women. These hopes were almost immediately dashed—within months, Joyenda was ousted and reappointed to a position in another region after death threats and protests. This has only buttressed the confidence of local conservatives and the Taliban, who continue to violently persecute women while facing little to no consequences themselves.
The New York Times has covered the brutality in Ghor with details of victims, particularly the story of Tabaruk, a mother of six. Tabaruk’s daughter, Mah Yamsar, was raped and impregnated by neighbor Sayed Ahmad, a “dishonor” to her family that was likely to lead to an honor killing. After managing an abortion with the help of her mother, and after a verdict by the local council of elders, Mah Yamsar and her family were told to pack their belongings and leave the village. Along the way, Tabaruk was killed. Although the daughter who had brought “dishonor” did not face an honor killing in this case, her mother was not as fortunate. Once again, a woman was victim to violence in the name of so-called religious retribution.
It is clear that in Ghor, Afghanistan, many women have no voice nor freedom to act, and that their lives are believed to hold little value. However, the extremity of violence and lawlessness in Ghor does not make it the only scene of injustice. Around the world, honor killings of women continue and go largely unpunished. The violence and abuse against women must end – on the path to empowering women everywhere, there must also be justice for those who were not even allowed to live.
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