Children play free at humane Afghan women's jail

Mon Mar 2, 2009 2:49am EST
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By Golnar Motevalli and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters Life!) - Children play in sunlit corridors as their mothers embroider or learn to use computers in a facility that could almost be called cozy.

But the guards, and the cells, give away that this is Kabul's only women's prison, home to some 90 inmates.

Badam Bagh, which means Almond Orchard, is surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains and, by admission of the United Nations, is probably the best prison in Afghanistan.

"The female prison in Badam Bagh is the best one ever built in Kabul, it is built to international standards that you will not see in other prisons around the country," Sayed Afzal Sherzad, project manager for prisons for the United Nation's drugs and crime Agency, UNODC.

"In other parts of the country, men and women are kept in one detention facility, but in Badam Bagh, inmates have separate rooms, bathrooms, meeting rooms and hygiene is also good."

The women share rooms of three to four bunk beds and spend their days learning to read and write the local Dari language as well as taking classes in geography, English, sewing and computer technology, while their children make a playground of their surroundings.

"This is just like a house," said Zarafshan, the prison's governor. "Here we are like a family, we look after each other. We have the best food here, fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, televisions in the rooms."

LONGING TO GO HOME   Continued...