MOSCOW, October 26 (RIA Novosti) - A Kabul judge sentenced a mullah who had been found guilty of raping a 10-year-old-girl in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province to 20 years in prison on Saturday, AP reports.
The sentence Judge Mohammad Suliman Rasuli handed Mohammad Amin, a mullah from a village in Kunduz, was welcomed by women’s rights groups, and noted as a rare victory for the victims of sex crimes in the deeply conservative country, where women’s rights are often trampled on.
Amin was prosecuted under a 2009 law, the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was developed in cooperation with the international community. The law was ostensibly designed to remove the partial blame of the victim in cases of rape, effectively criminalizing it. In many conservative Muslim countries, young girls who are raped are considered guilty of sexual crimes punishable under Islamic law. In 2013, a girl from the Maldives faced 100 lashes for “fornication” after being raped by her step-father; her sentence was only rescinded following an international outcry.
Hassina Sarwari, an activist who runs a local women’s shelter in Kunduz, told AP that if the trial had taken place in a local court, “we were so worried that the mullah would have not been punished...for his crime,” AP cited her as saying.
Local mullahs had earlier claimed that the girl was as old as 17, above the age of consent, and that Mullah Amin had tried to defend himself by claiming that the girl had seduced him. Amin’s defense lawyers had attempted to limit his punishment to 100 lashes, the standard Sharia punishment for adultery, but Judge Rasuli noted that the girl “cannot commit adultery; she is a child,” the New York Times quoted him as saying.
Amin’s victim, a girl named Bershana, could not help but yell out at her attacker in court, calling him “a liar”, “dirt”, “a vampire”, and asking the judge to “hang him."
Sawari noted that the attack took place in May of this year, after the mullah had chosen 10-year-old Bershana and two other girls to help clean the local village mosque. Bershana was so badly injured by her attacker that she had to be transferred from a local clinic to a Kabul hospital for additional treatment, including surgery.
Amin later threatened the girl, “saying that if she told anyone about what happened she and her family would be killed,” Sarwari said.
Local women’s rights activist Jamila Azizi insisted that 20 years was not enough, calling for the death penalty and questioning “why raping this little girl earns him only prison,” noting that “he ruined her for life,” the New York Times noted.
The girl and her father were also said to be disappointed with the sentence. The Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women does not provide for the death penalty.
The girl herself now faces ostracism from within her own family, with rumors that family members had contemplated killing her out of shame. According to rights activist Manizha Naderi, her organization, Women for Afghan Women, has been trying to persuade the girl’s family to let her go to school in Kabul, after she had been withdrawn from the local school in Kunduz, the New York Times said.