A 30-year-old woman and her two children have been beheaded in Afghanistan’s east, police said, in what they described appeared as the latest in a rapidly growing trend of so-called honour killings. Officers investigating the case described it as an honour killing, a phrase used to describe the murder of mostly women and girls accused of sullying a family’s reputation.
Afghan women have won back some basic rights in education, voting and work since the severe rule of the Taliban was toppled just over a decade ago, although fear now mounts that freedoms will be traded away as Kabul and Washington seek talks with the Islamist group to secure a peaceful end to the war.
Police said they suspected the former husband of committing the horrific crime. According to a local police officer, the husband barged into the victims home – in the capital of Ghazni province – and murdered her, as well as their eight-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.
Activists say there has been a sharp rise in violent attacks on women in Afghanistan over the past year. They blame president Hamid Karzai’s waning attention to women’s rights as his government prepares for the exit of most foreign troops in 2014 and seeks to negotiate with the Taliban, Afghanistan’s former Islamist rulers.
There have been 16 cases of ‘honour killings’ recorded across the country over March and April according to AIHRC – Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. This compares to the 20 cases recorded for all of last year, said commissioner Suraya Subhrang, blaming increased insecurity and weak rule of law for the sharp rise. Since AIHRC started recording such killings in 2001, there have never been more than 20 cases a year.
The victim – Serata – divorced her husband Mohammad Arif, 38, a year ago after enduring almost a decade of domestic abuse, Shukria Wali, head of Ghazni’s department of women’s affairs said.
Violent crimes against women often go unpunished in Afghanistan, with activists blaming police carelessness, corruption and a growing atmosphere of impunity. Donor Nations are expected to commit just under $4 billion in development aid annually to Afghanistan at a summit in Tokyo this weekend, though the European Union – the largest contributor – has said maintaining its support will be difficult if women’s rights are not protected.
Police said they were still hunting for the husband.