Divorced Afghan women are pushed back to abusive ex-husbands
KABUL – Marwa was abused for years by her ex-husband, who broke all her teeth, and went into hiding with her eight children after Taliban commanders tore up their divorce.
Marwa was one of the few women granted legal segregation under the previous US-backed administration in Afghanistan, where women have almost no rights and domestic violence is rampant.
When Taliban forces took power in 2021, her husband claimed he was forced to divorce and commanders ordered her to bring her back into his clutches.
“My daughters and I cried a lot that day,” Marwa, 40, whose name was changed to protect herself, told AFP.
“I said to myself, ‘Oh god, the devil has returned’.”
The Taliban government adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam and has imposed severe restrictions on women’s lives, which the United Nations has termed “gender apartheid”.
Lawyers told AFP several women have reported being dragged back into abusive marriages after Taliban commanders annulled their divorces.
For months, Marwa endured a new round of beatings, locked indoors, with broken hands and broken fingers.
“There were days when I was unconscious and my daughters fed me,” she said.
“He used to pull my hair so hard that I went partially bald. He hit me so hard that all my teeth broke off.”
Gathering the strength to walk, she fled hundreds of kilometers (miles) to a relative’s home with her six daughters and two sons, all of whom have adopted fictional names.
“My children say, ‘Mother, it’s okay if we go hungry. At least we stopped the abuse,'” said Marwa, who sat on the cracked floor of her bare house, clutching a prayer beads.
“Nobody knows us here, not even our neighbors,” she says, afraid her husband might discover her.
– “Islam allows divorce” –
According to the UN mission in Afghanistan, nine out of ten women in Afghanistan will experience physical, sexual or psychological violence at the hands of their partner.
However, divorce is often more taboo than the abuse itself, and the culture is unforgiving of women who separate from their husbands.
Under the previous US-backed administration, divorce rates rose steadily in some cities where small advances in women’s rights were largely confined to education and employment.
Women once blamed their fate for everything that happened to them, said Nazifa, a lawyer who has successfully handled around 100 divorce cases for abused women but is no longer allowed to work in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
As awareness grew, women realized that separation from abusive husbands was possible.
“When there is no harmony in a man-woman relationship, even Islam allows divorce,” explained Nazifa, who only wanted to give her first name.
Special family courts, with female judges and lawyers, were set up under the ousted regime to try such cases, but the Taliban authorities have made their new justice system a male-only affair.
Nazifa told AFP that five of her former clients reported that they were in the same situation as Marwa.
Another lawyer, who declined to be named, told AFP she recently witnessed a court case in which a woman fought to be reunited with her ex-husband by force.
She added that under the Taliban government, divorce is only possible if a husband is classified as a drug addict or has left the country.
“But in cases of domestic violence or when a husband doesn’t consent to a divorce, the court doesn’t grant it,” she said.
A nationwide network of shelters and services that once supported women has almost entirely collapsed, while the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Human Rights Commission have been wiped out.
– ‘Knocking on the door’ –
Sana was 15 when she married her cousin, who was 10 years her senior.
“He would hit me when our baby cried or the food wasn’t good,” she said as she made tea on a gas stove in a house where she secretly lived.
“He always said that a woman has no right to speak.”
With the help of a free legal services project, she fought in court to divorce her husband – but her relief was shattered when Taliban commanders knocked on the door.
When she was threatened with custody of her four daughters, she returned to her ex-husband, who had since also married another woman.
She escaped after he announced her daughters’ engagement to Taliban members.
“My daughters said, ‘Mom, we’re going to commit suicide,'” Sana said.
She was able to collect some money and flee with her children and, with the help of a relative, found a one-room house equipped only with a gas stove and some pillows for sleeping.
“Every time there’s a knock on the door, I’m afraid he’s found me and is coming to take the kids.”
– ordeal for children –
A Taliban official told AFP the authorities are investigating cases in which previously divorced women are forced to return to their ex-husbands.
“If we receive such complaints, we will investigate them under Sharia law,” said Inayatullah, spokesman for the Taliban Supreme Court, who shares a name with many Afghans.
Asked whether the Taliban regime would recognize divorces granted under the previous administration, he said: “This is an important and complex issue.”
“The Dar al-Ifta investigates it. If there is a unanimous decision, then we will see,” he said, referring to a court-related institution that issues judgments on Sharia.
The trauma left deep emotional scars on Marwa and her daughters, who survive by sewing clothes.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to marry her off,” Marwa said, looking at her daughters.
“They tell me, ‘Mom, when we see how bad your life has been, we hate the word husband’.”
Source: Crypto News Deutsch