From The Front Lines
On the Line With: Fariba
Fariba is just 12 years old. Two years ago her parents got her older sister engaged against her will to an old man. Her sister eloped with another boy. Fariba’s sister’s fiancé, outraged, demanded that Fariba be given to him in baad*. Fariba’s family refused because he was old and a widower, and had many children including daughters the same age as Fariba. The fiancé then asked that Fariba be given to his younger brother. So in a baad arrangement, the elders among Fariba’s relatives married her to the brother without her knowledge. Fariba was taken away to her new family, and her mother had to leave her there. Fariba’s ordeal began: “Even on his first night with me my husband became violent because I did not want to sleep with him. He hit me and would not let me to go to my parents’ house. I was not allowed to go to school.“
When Fariba’s husband went to the city to work as a tailor, her brother-in-law (her sister’s fiancé) raped her, and he continued to rape her for one year. When Fariba’s uncle came to take her to see her parents, she was not allowed to go. One day Fariba told her husband that his brother was raping her, but her husband just accused her of lying. Finally, Fariba got away to her parents house, but when she arrived, she found her found her husband and brother-in-law there waiting for her. When she refused to go back with them, they hit her repeatedly in the head and broke her hand.
Fariba’s parents took her to a doctor and filed a case with the police. But her husband and brother-in-law dragged Fariba back home with them, beating her along the way. When shopkeepers expressed concern, they said she was a disobedient wife.
Fariba’s mother was determined to rescue her daughter. She went to the district office to report the case. She went back to the family to get bring Fariba back home, but Fariba wasn’t there, and the brothers had fled to the mountains. After one month of persistence on Fariba’s mother’s part, the brothers were finally arrested, and Fariba was taken to WAW’s shelter in Kabul.
Within two days, the courts said Fariba was lying and released the men. This even though neither the judge nor the prosecutor had ever seen or talked to Fariba. WAW staff appealed strongly, but the prosecutor said Fariba had no proof of rape. We were told that the courts would help her if she could “prove she had been raped.” In other words, the judge and prosecutor have been bribed. And the cruel trick of Afghan law is that if it wasn’t rape, it was zena (the crime of adultery), and Fariba could end up in prison. We are still pursuing this case, but Fariba’s prospects do not look good.
*Baad: a now illegal but still widespread custom whereby a family that has injured another family pays for the crime with a piece of property. That piece of property is usually a little girl, sometimes as young as 2 years old. She will be forcibly married to a male in the family that claims to have been injured.