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Afghan Girl Wants Father Punished For Disfiguring Mother

Afghanistan - Sitara, an afghan woman who lost her nose and lips. Sitara's husband cut her nose and lips with a knife and escaped, but police trying to arrest him. "said Afghan security authorities in western Afghanistan", 15 December 2013
HERAT, An Afghan girl wants her heroin-addicted father punished for hacking off her mother's nose and lips for refusing to sell her jewelry to fund his habit.

"I want my father to be punished before my mother’s eyes," 10-year-old Parisa told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

Parisa's mother Sitara, 30, is now undergoing reconstructive surgery in Turkey after her husband Mohammad Azim attacked her in the western Afghan province of Herat.

Parisa recalled the dark night on December 13 when Azim threatened to teach her mother a lesson after a particularly bad spat between them.

That Friday night my father was high on heroine. He insisted that my mother sell her jewelry to give him money for buying drugs
"That Friday night my father was high on heroine. He insisted that my mother sell her jewelry to give him money for buying drugs," she said. "My mother told him that she had no money to give him," she added. "He was furious and warned her of grave consequences."

Around mid-night Parisa was awakened by her mother's screams. "As I approached her, I saw that blood was coming out of her face. He had hit her with a big stone on the forehead and had cut off her nose and lips before escaping."

Parisa said she and her three sisters started screaming, attracting the attention of neighbors in their small village in the Injil district close to the provincial capital, Herat.

Doctors in Herat stabilized Sitara and moved her to the Afghan capital, Kabul. Her ordeal attracted national attention and prompted protest demonstrations in Herat.

The national government announced a manhunt for Azim. They moved Parisa and her three younger sisters to a local orphanage in Herat and sent their mother for treatment to Turkey.

Parisa said her father's addiction had made their family life a living hell. She says that Amiz didn't work and would often beat her and Sitara to force them to work to fund his habit.

"He forced me to drop out of school and yelled at me. He often told me, 'go find some work to provide for the family.'"

Afghan women have made some tangible progress since the demise of the Taliban regime in 2001. A large number of Afghan girls now go to school and the number of women in the workforce and universities is on the rise.

According to the United Nations nearly 40 percent of Afghanistan's nearly 8.5 million school students are girls. The World Bank estimates that the labor force participation rate for Afghan women is 16 percent.

The Afghan constitution guarantees human rights, and Kabul enacted a landmark law on the Elimination of Violence against Women in 2009.

But despite such formal measures, discriminatory cultural practices and violence against women is common. Honor crimes and killings, domestic abuse, forced and early marriages and restrictions on women's education and work are endemic.

A United Nations report last year said violence against women has increased 28 percent in comparison to 2012. The Afghan Ministry for Women's Affairs documented more than 4,000 cases of abuse against women last year.
Afghanistan -- 4 children of Sitara a woman who lost his lips and nose by her husband in Herat province, 19 Dec 2013
Afghanistan -- 4 children of Sitara a woman who lost his lips and nose by her husband in Herat province, 19 Dec 2013

Senior Afghan officials complain that very few perpetrators of violence against women are prosecuted in the country. Husn Bano Gazanfar, the Minister for Women's Affairs, told an Afghan parliamentary commission on January 7 that the country's law enforcement agencies and courts are failing to deal with culprits of violence against women.

"They always tell us that investigations in such cases are not complete because they have insufficient evidence," she says. "This is not acceptable but we cannot prosecute the courts."

But Qudsia Niazi, the head of the Violence Against Women unit in the Afghan attorney general's office, says that they have investigated more than 8,000 cases during the past four years.

In December the Afghan interior ministry publicly pledged to arrest Azim within a day, but he is still at large. Omar Daudzai, the Afghan Interior Minister, says that police are looking for Azim and even raided a remote village near the Iranian border recently after a tip from the intelligence service. "We are looking everywhere for him," he told lawmakers earlier this month.

Adela Amarkhel, a member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, is concerned about what she sees as inaction by the Afghan security apparatus to arrest criminals such as Sitara's husband, in part because of strong patriarchal traditions in Afghanistan that shield perpetrators like Azim from the reach of the law.

"He committed a grave crime according to our laws," she said. "The key question is why have they failed to arrest him? How can he roam free?