Ex-Husbands in Afghanistan Threaten Divorced Women with Imprisonment

Amin Kawa

The Taliban have exacerbated the situation for Afghan women living in Afghanistan, enforcing punishments and detaining divorced women in accordance with the restrictive and discriminatory orders issued against them. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, hundreds of women who have divorced without their husbands’ approval may face imprisonment, demonstrating the Taliban’s stringent implementation of Islamic law and the threat it poses to the lives of thousands of divorced women. Hasht-e-Subh has recently conducted interviews with a number of divorced women, finding that they are under considerable threat from their former husbands, who are now affiliated with the Taliban. In some cases, this has even resulted in the murder of women who have left their husbands.

According to a report that appeared in The Washington Post on Saturday, March 4, the Taliban in Afghanistan view divorced women as “lawbreakers and miscreants.” The report claims that thousands of divorced women are in danger of being arrested or subject to violent retaliation as the influence of their ex-husbands, who are now affiliated with the Taliban, has increased. Furthermore, the report states that divorced women have been forced to hide after their second marriage in order to protect themselves from accusations of disloyalty and adultery from their ex-husbands.

Domestic abuse, which has caused divorced women immense suffering and distress, is said to be the cause of their “separation” from their husbands. In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, one of the divorced women, Feriba Faqiri, stated that her husband had subjected her to torture multiple times.

Faqiri stated that she is from the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province, and that she married her husband, Qari Asef, also known as Abu Huzaifa, 17 years ago. She went on to explain that she was subjected to such severe beatings that she was unable to continue living with him, and that she attempted to forget the atrocities she experienced, which she is unable to speak of. She further detailed that she was beaten and tortured with stones, wood, and whatever else her husband could find. She concluded by saying that she eventually stopped talking due to the severity of the beatings.

Feriba Faqiri went on to say, “I have almost lost my memory as I often forget my words and sometimes cannot speak, especially here. I requested assistance from the Director of Women’s Affairs in Kunduz and was referred to a lawyer. My husband was wanted by the police, so he escaped and joined the Taliban, making me feel threatened. He tracked me down at my job and I have since been living in a neighbouring country to Afghanistan. I feel alone and poor, with nobody helping us, and the Taliban are becoming increasingly powerful. Qari Asef is an employee in one of the Taliban’s intelligence offices. With the increasing number of deportations, I am concerned that we may be deported and captured by tyrants and murderers. What would happen to our lives and future if this were to occur?”

An anonymous employee at a women’s safe house informed Hasht-e-Subh that he was aware of the numerous women who had been killed after the collapse of the former regime in Afghanistan. He stated, “A woman was killed by her former husband, who had been an underage girl when her family had forced her to marry him. She had spent 18 days with him before she had left to stay at the safe house, but he had refused to accept the divorce. He had followed her everywhere, and when the Taliban had taken power, we had been unable to protect the women, so we had handed them over to the Taliban. We had given this girl to her sister, but her husband had seen her alone on the street and had stabbed her fourteen times before fleeing and joining the Taliban. There are many unfortunate women in Afghanistan, and her husband had accused us of encouraging wives to leave their homes. Most of the women who had felt safe at the safe house are either dead or have fled the country.”

Zohra Azizi, a lawyer who specializes in cases of divorced women, told Hasht-e-Subh that she has handled cases of women seeking divorces from their husbands during the Republic. According to this female lawyer, when women who have been divorced come to her with the problems they are experiencing, they now have terrible and heartbreaking tales to tell. She stated, “After the Taliban took control, many of my clients complained that their ex-husbands were collaborating with the Taliban. They warned their wives after they had ended up finding a position under the Taliban rule, saying it was time for the Taliban to decide. Those women’s husbands said they would take revenge and put their wives in the Taliban’s prisons.”

Azizi discussed his experience with Hasht-e-Subh as she defended the case of one of his clients, emphasizing that her client was in great peril from her former husband. She went on to say, “I was appointed as a woman’s lawyer in accordance with the laws of Islamic Sharia. My client’s marriage had dissolved into divorce and her husband was now working with the Taliban’s intelligence. He was threatening and assaulting his divorced wife and she had informed me that she was in danger and her husband might put her in jail. Previously, the Directorate of Prevention of Violence Against Women and the courts were active and the Department of Violence Prohibition would hear a woman’s voice after a divorce and act if her husband started pursuing vengeance, but at the moment there is no such organization present in Afghanistan, so all relevant organizations have been destroyed.”

Taliban Closes Office Prosecuting Violence Against Women and Children
During the former republic government, the Attorney General’s Office of Afghanistan created a separate division, the Deputy Chief Directorate for Combatting Violence Against Women and Children, to address this issue. It was the responsibility of this department to follow up on cases of violations of children’s and women’s rights, promote the application of Sharia, constitutional protection, and the preservation of women’s rights, pursue legal action to end violence against women and children, and support those who have been victimized by it. This institution’s main responsibilities included overseeing the attorneys’ judgments regarding the admissibility of suspects of violence against women in prison and advancing the criminal investigation and prosecution of such cases.

The General Directorate of the Judiciary for the Prevention of Violence Against Women participated in the “Deputy of Combating Violence Against Women and Children” category. The Directorates of “Investigation, Primary, Appeal, and Prohibition of Violence Against Women” comprised the institutions that collaborated with this Deputy Office.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the Taliban have stated that in order to demonstrate domestic abuse of women, they must first visit the relevant districts and collect testimonies from witnesses. In reality, domestic violence often occurs in private settings, and perpetrators rarely admit to their crimes. By dissolving the office of the special prosecutor for the prevention of violence against women, the Taliban have deprived women of any legal recourse, as there are no female judges in the Taliban’s courts.

Attorneys and Prosecutors Response
In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Mirza Rafat, an Afghan legal expert, stated that Afghan civil law permits women to petition for a divorce. For instance, a woman may seek a divorce due to her husband’s neglect, financial mismanagement, or a fatal illness.

Mr. Rafat clarified that if the judgment of removal was granted by the official courtroom at that time, it is permanent and the Taliban cannot revoke any of the judgments issued in the past. Requesting a separation on the woman’s behalf does not imply that she is immoral; she cannot remain in her marriage and cohabitate with her husband for any reason. The woman is not in any way bad as a result of this, and similarly, a man is not necessarily a bad man if he divorces his wife. It is against human values and rights for the Taliban to target these divorced women.

According to Farooq Alim, a former prosecutor, there are four ways to end a marriage: divorce, separation, termination, and dispossession. Women have a legal right to divorce and to receive financial support from their husbands if they are ill, missing, unable to pay support, or have been subjected to violence. If a woman is unable to continue living with her husband, she has no other option but to seek a divorce. This process has been established by Afghan law, approved by the parliament, and has been in place for the past 20 years. In order to counteract the violence-induced compulsion, the oppression of women, and the high rate of suicide, one of the requirements for divorce has been removed. Women should consult the courts to obtain a divorce from both a Shari’ah and legal perspective.

According to Alim, under the democratic republic there were thousands of cases of divorce. Despite the presence of misogyny in the past, the law was relatively favourable to women in this regard. However, due to the Taliban’s strict stance on the subject, these cases have been dismissed and the legislation concerning divorce revoked. Afghan women have been under immense pressure to admit to having broken the law, and their calls for divorce have been heavily criticised by the Taliban, who are known for their extreme violence against people, particularly women. This has led to an increase in mental health issues and suicide rates among women in all provinces of Afghanistan, Farooq Alim stated.

Farooq also noted that Article 139 of the civil law recognizes the right to separation as a means of liberating women from domestic hardships, yet this is inadequate. Other cases should be included in the law, as there used to be a law that protected women from harassment in society. I have witnessed various cases of violence against women in the past. Since all such laws have been abolished, tragic family violence has become a reality, and women are now subjected to all forms of violence in the country.

Divorced women in Afghanistan feel powerless due to the Taliban’s abolishment of all legal institutions that previously provided support for women. These institutions had addressed crimes against women during the former republic, in addition to judicial institutions. It is uncertain what will become of these divorced women under the Taliban’s rule, which has deprived women of their fundamental rights and is continuously imposing more restrictions on all Afghan women in Afghanistan.