Afghan authorities have made arrests and are investigating the alleged rape of a minor girl at a madrasah in a conservative northwestern province of Afghanistan.
“We have arrested 18 suspected students of the religious school,” Sher Aqa Alekozai, security chief in remote Badghis Province, told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Our initial investigations are underway to identify the main perpetrator.”
Alekozai said that so far no one has confessed to committing the rape, which happened on December 26. The victim is believed to be a 10-year-old girl whose identity is being withheld.
“The girl told us that she was raped in the washroom of the religious school by a person who had covered his face,” Rahila Naderi, provincial director of Afghanistan’s Women Affairs Ministry in Badghis, told Radio Free Afghanistan. “She was in a very bad physical and psychological condition at the Badghis hospital.”
Naderi says the rape has not only shocked provincial officials but has left parents deeply concerned. Across Afghanistan, poor families typically send their children to madrasahs for free lodging and education. “Some of the families in Badghis are worried about the future of their daughters, saying they might not let them study at madrasahs any longer,” she said.
“We also want the Afghan government to investigate this issue seriously and bring the perpetrators of this incident to justice as soon as possible,” Shukrullah Mashkur, the commissioner and spokesman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) told Radio Free Afghanistan.
Officials say the victim was a student at the Imam Asem madrasah in the provincial capital, Qala-e Naw.
Afghan Education Ministry spokeswoman Noria Nazhat says Imam Asem madrasah is not registered, which is mandatory for all religious schools. She told Radio Free Afghanistan on December 28 that there are 18 Islamic schools in Badghis which are registered with the ministry.
Currently, there are more than 1,000 registered madrasahs across Afghanistan, she says. Some religious schools are also registered with the Hajj and Religious Affairs Ministry. This means that most such schools operate with little or no government supervision.
Horrific stories of child sexual abuse regularly surface in Afghanistan. More than 10 men gang-raped a nine- year- old girl in the Jawand district of Badghis almost three years ago. According to Afghanistan’s Pajhwok news agency, the orphan girl was later married off to a man by an illegal armed group.
Last month, British newspaper The Guardian reported that at least 546 boys from six schools in southeastern Logar Province have allegedly been abused by a pedophile ring involving teachers and local officials. On November 27, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said it had released two activists who helped expose the alleged pedophile ring.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an investigation into the matter. The Afghan Education Ministry says it takes such abuse very seriously.
According to the women’s affairs department in Badghis, last week’s incident was the eighth reported case of sexual assault in the province this year. It says that overall it has recorded 28 cases of violence against women this year compared with more than 60 last year.
The AIHRC has said that across Afghanistan cases of violence against women and girls in the past six months show an 8 percent increase compared with last year. Last month, the Women’s Affairs Ministry said it had documented 6,449 cases of violence and abuse against women since November 2018.