Alarm rises for Afghan women prisoners after Western troops leave

Thu Dec 19, 2013 4:10pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jessica Donati

HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - After Farida's husband sold their three-year-old daughter to support his drug habit of several years, she took a knife and stabbed him to death in their house in the western Afghan province of Herat.

The young mother of three then dragged his body into the street and called the police. Farida is now serving a 20-year sentence in Herat's prison for women.

"I do not agree with the sentence," she said, her gaze steady from beneath a green headscarf. "They didn't consider the bad situation I was in."

Farida, 31, expected the police to kill her rather than send her to prison where the first four years of her term have been relatively comfortable. Foreign aid donors have ensured regular meals, heating and healthcare.

But those arrangements are now at risk and fears that women like Farida may be abandoned are growing as the prison's main benefactor, the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team, winds down operations alongside most foreign troops.

The government has shown little interest in protecting hard-won rights for women and most of its limited funds will be devoted to fighting a growing Taliban insurgency.

"If the government doesn't feed them they don't eat," said Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"The government has an important role after the provincial reconstruction team leaves and it's hard to imagine they will have the will, or the ability, to continue maintaining the conditions in prisons as outside funding declines."   Continued...

Afghan female prisoners work in a tailoring workshop at Herat prison, western Afghanistan, December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani