Arrested Afghan cleric defends marriage to six-year-old girl, saying she was a 'religious offering'
30 JULY 2016
An elderly Afghan cleric has been arrested after he married a
six-year-old girl, officials said on Friday, in the latest case
highlighting the scourge of child marriages in the war-battered country.
Mohammad Karim, said to be aged around 60, was held in central Ghor
province as he claimed her parents gave him the girl as a "religious
offering", officials said.
But they cited the family of the girl, believed to be in shock, as
saying that she was abducted from western Herat province, bordering
"This girl does not speak, but repeats only one thing: 'I am afraid of
this man'," said Masoom Anwari, head of the women affairs department in
The girl is currently in a women's shelter in Ghor and her parents are
on their way to the province to collect her, the local governor's
"Karim has been jailed and our investigation is ongoing," said Abdul Hai Khatibi, the governor's spokesman.
The arrest comes just days after a 14-year-old pregnant girl was burned
to death in Ghor, in a case that sparked shock waves in Afghanistan.
The family of that girl, Zahra, said she was tortured and set alight by
her husband's family. But relatives of the teenager's husband insisted
her death was by self-immolation.
The incidents underscore rising incidents of child marriages in Afghanistan.
"In some regions because of insecurity and poverty the families marry
off their daughters at a very early age to get rid of them," Sima
Samar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission,
said this month.
Afghan civil law sets the legal age of marriage at 16 for girls, yet 15
percent of Afghan women under 50 were married before their 15th
birthday and almost half were married before the age of 18, according
to Save the Children.
"So many children who are married off at a young age are deprived of
their right to education, safety and the ability to make choices about
their future," the international charity said this month.
"This is such a fundamental breach of a child's basic rights."
The latest case comes after a young woman was stoned to death in Ghor last November after being accused of adultery.
And in March last year a woman named Farkhunda was savagely beaten and
set ablaze in central Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a
The mob killing triggered angry nationwide protests and drew global attention to the endemic violence facing Afghan women.
Afghan Mullah Leading Stoning Inquiry Condones Practice
By ROD NORDLAND and JAWAD SUKHANYAR
NOV. 7, 2015
The New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — After men believed to be Taliban fighters forced a
19-year-old named Rukhshana into a freshly dug pit and methodically
stoned her to death for adultery, a video of the killing surfaced on
the Internet and incited outrage.
Western embassies and human-rights groups denounced the attack as
another example of abusive treatment of women by the Taliban. President
Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan called it a “heinous act” and ordered an
investigation, sending a delegation to the central province of Ghor,
where the attack took place.
One of the leaders of that presidential delegation, however, is a
prominent, pro-government mullah who believes the stoning and flogging
of adulterers is perfectly justified — as he made clear both in a
sermon on the Ghor killing at Friday Prayer and in a subsequent
interview on Friday.
“If you’re married and you commit adultery, you have to be stoned,”
said the mullah, Maulavi Inayatullah Baleegh, during his sermon at
Pul-e Khishti mosque, Kabul’s biggest, on Friday. “The only question
was whether this was done according to Shariah law, with witnesses or
confessions as required,” he said. “It is necessary to protect and
safeguard the honor of women in society, as it was done in the past
during the time of the prophet.”
In the interview later, Maulavi Baleegh also declined to criticize the
Taliban over the Ghor stoning or to give an opinion on whether a
Shariah trial held by the insurgents would be considered religiously
valid. “Do you want me to have a fight with the Taliban?” he said, when
a reporter asked about the Taliban role in the killing, and he declined
to say anything further about the insurgents’ actions.
Maulavi Baleegh, who is a prominent member of the National Ulema
Council, the country’s highest religious authority, and is an adviser
to Mr. Ghani on religious affairs, said he was told he would lead the
presidential investigating commission when it goes to Ghor this week.
His theological support for the sort of stoning he is being sent to
investigate is emblematic of the national conundrum over the role of
Shariah law, particularly when it comes to punishment for so-called
moral crimes. The Afghan Constitution recognizes Shariah as well as
civil law, but a presidential decree known as the Elimination of
Violence Against Women Act, issued in 2009 but never ratified by
Parliament, outlawed the stoning and flogging of adulterers.
The anti-violence law is simply ignored in many parts of the country,
and by some of its highest authorities — including Maulavi Baleegh, who
considers it invalid. The act also outlaws polygamy, for instance, but
many Afghan men have more than one wife, and new plural marriages are
still legally recognized.
The stoning in Ghor took place on Oct. 25, in a Taliban-controlled area
in Chaghcharan District, where the provincial capital is, according to
Abdul Hadi Chelghori, head of the provincial police department’s
criminal investigation division. He said the stoning of Rukhshana, as
well as the flogging of a young man named Mohammad Gul, 22, whom she
had tried to run away with, were ordered by three well-known Taliban
mullahs from the area, two of whom are also insurgent military
commanders, Afghan officials said.
“There was no court to decide this,” said a member of Parliament
from Ghor, Sayed Nader Shah Bahr. “They simply brutally stoned the girl
to death and lashed the boy.”
The governor of Ghor Province, Seema Joyenda, one of only two female
governors in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, said that Rukhshana had left
her husband, but only because she had been illegally forced to marry
As a child, she had been engaged to a different, much older man. But
when she reached marriageable age, she refused the union and ran away
with Mr. Gul instead.
“Rukhshana was a pretty girl and had studied until Grade 6,” Governor
Joyenda said. “She was literate and pretty, that was why everyone
wanted to marry her, but she would not allow herself to be married to
anyone against her will.”
Afghan clerics warn US on Karzai demands
March 17, 2013
Escalating the rift in U.S.-Afghan relations, Afghan clerics warned
Saturday that Americans will be treated as invaders unless Washington
heeds President Hamid Karzai's latest demands.
"Allah has never allowed Muslims to accept the sovereignty and rule
of the infidels," the National Ulema Council said in a statement.
Karzai clashed with the U.S. in recent weeks over several issues that
he views as disrespect for Afghan sovereignty, such as the American
failure to comply with his deadlines to withdraw Special Operations
Forces from the province of Wardak and to hand over Afghan detainees at
the U.S.-run Bagram detention facility.
The relationship suffered a blow last Sunday, when Karzai said that the
Taliban were "in the service of America," working to prolong foreign
military presence. The top coalition commander, U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph
Dunford, in response put his forces on heightened alert, warning in an
advisory that Karzai's "inflammatory" rhetoric could spur attacks on
American troops, officials said.
Karzai's demands on Bagram, Wardak, and other issues "needed to protect
the sovereignty and independence of our own country are the voice of
the Muslim Afghan nation," the statement added.
Failure to heed these demands, the Ulema Council warned, will be
interpreted as "the occupation" of Afghanistan and Americans will be
responsible for the consequences. WSJ
Afghan Clerics Deem US Quran Burning Unforgivable
March 02, 2012
VOICE OF AMERICA
Senior Afghan clerics have condemned the United States for the burning
of Qurans at a NATO base last month, in a move that threatens to spark
a new wave of outrage and violence.
The Ullema Council called the burning of the Muslim holy books at
Bagram Air Base a "crime" and "inhumane." It also said apologies
by senior U.S. military officials and President Barack Obama would not
be accepted and called for those responsible to be "publicly tried and
The statement by the council was quoted Friday by the office of Afghan
President Hamid Karzai, who met with the clerics earlier this
week. Their comments follow days of violent protests that left at
least 30 people dead.
Word that U.S. troops at Bagram had incinerated Qurans also sparked a series of deadly attacks on American service members.
Following the incident, the commander of the U.S.-led international
coalition, U.S. General John Allen, in Afghanistan issued an apology
and ordered an investigation.
However, just last week, thousands of Afghans poured onto the streets
to protest following Friday prayers, many chanting "Death to America."
The incident also sparked protests in neighboring Pakistan.
President Karzai appealed for calm following the initial wave of
protests, saying citizens have the right to demonstrate but should not
resort to violence.
The Associated Press reports that the statement from the Ullema Council
also called on the U.S. to end night raids and hand over its prisons in
Afghanistan to Afghan control.
Outraged at Desecration
October 20, 2005
By DANIEL COONEY
Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Islamic clerics expressed outrage Thursday at
television footage that purportedly shows U.S. soldiers burning the
bodies of two dead Taliban fighters to taunt other militants and warned
of a possible violent anti-American backlash.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the alleged desecration and ordered an
inquiry. The operational commander of the U.S. military in Afghanistan,
which launched its own criminal probe, said the alleged act, if true,
Worried about the potential for anti-American feelings over the
incident, the State Department said it instructed U.S. embassies around
the globe to tell local governments that the reported abuse did not
reflect American values.
Cremating bodies is banned under Islam (adherence to 7th century Muslim
ignorance could not foresee fiery airplane crashes), and one Muslim
leader in Afghanistan compared the video to photographs of U.S. troops
abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
``Abu Ghraib ruined the reputation of the Americans in Iraq and to me
this is even worse,'' said Faiz Mohammed, a top cleric in northern
Kunduz province. ``This is against Islam. Afghans will be shocked by
this news. It is so humiliating. There will be very, very dangerous
consequences from this.''
Anger also was evident in the streets.
``If they continue to carry out such actions against us, our people
will change their policy and react with the same policy against them,''
said Mehrajuddin, a resident of Kabul, who like many Afghans uses only
Another man in the capital, Zahidullah, said the reported abuse was
like atrocities committed by Soviet troops, who were driven out of
Afghanistan in 1989 after a decade of occupation. He warned that the
same could happen to American forces.
``Their future will be like the Russians,'' Zahidullah said.
In Washington, the U.S. government also condemned the alleged incident.
The allegation was ``very serious'' and ``very troubling,'' State
Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. His comment came after the
department said U.S. embassies had been told to inform foreigners that
abuse of remains ``is not reflective of our values.''
The move suggested U.S. worries about an anti-American uproar like
Afghan riots in May that erupted after Newsweek said U.S. soldiers at
the Guantanamo Bay detention facility desecrated Islam's holy book, the
Quran. Newsweek later retracted the story.
The alleged body burning comes as the U.S. military is struggling to
bolster its image in Afghanistan amid charges by Karzai of heavy-handed
tactics in fighting the Taliban.
Australia's SBS television network broadcast the video purportedly
showing soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters
in hills outside Gonbaz village in the southern Shah Wali Kot district
- an area plagued by Taliban activity and considered by the local
security forces as too dangerous to venture into unless accompanied by
The network said the video was taken by a freelance journalist, Stephen
Dupont. Dupont, who told The Associated Press that he was embedded with
the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade, said the burnings happened Oct. 1.
He told SBS that soldiers in a U.S. Army psychological operations unit
later broadcast taunting messages targeting the village, which was
believed to be harboring Taliban fighters.
``They deliberately wanted to incite that much anger from the Taliban
so the Taliban could attack them. ... That's the only way they can find
them,'' Dupont said.
The video did not show those messages being broadcast, although it
showed some military vehicles fitted with speakers and playing loud
According to a transcript released by SBS, the messages called the Taliban ``cowardly dogs.''
``You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies,'' said one message, according to the transcript.
Dupont told the AP the messages were broadcast in the local dialect but
were translated into English for him by members of the Army unit. He
declined to provide further information.
The U.S. military said the Army Criminal Investigation Command was looking into the matter.
``This alleged action is repugnant to our common values,'' Maj. Gen.
Jason Kamiya said from the U.S. base at Bagram. ``This command takes
all allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior seriously and
has directed an investigation into circumstances surrounding this
A U.S. military spokeswoman, Sgt. Marina Evans, said investigators
would check whether the purported act violated the Geneva Convention,
which says the dead must be ``honorably interred, if possible according
to the rites of the religion to which they belonged.''
The Afghan Defense Ministry launched its own investigation, Karzai's spokesman, Karim Rahimi, said.
``We strongly condemn any disrespect to human bodies regardless of
whether they are those of enemies or friends,'' he told the AP.
US Troops Burned Bodies In Afghanistan
Because 'They Stank'; Clerics Warn of Backlash
Oct 24, 2005
By Ahmad Al-Marid, JUS Afghan Correspondent
US soldiers burned the bodies of two
Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because villagers had not claimed them a day
after they were killed and the bodies "were bloated and they stank," a US
magazine reported, citing soldiers who were present at the incident. According
to the article published on Time magazine's website, a US army platoon was
sharing a rocky hilltop above Gonbaz village in southern Afghanistan with the
bodies of the two fighters.
"The Taliban men had been killed in a firefight 24 hours earlier and in the 90
degree (Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Celsius) heat, their bodies had become an
unbearable presence," Time reported, citing soldiers who were present. "We
decided to burn the bodies ... because they were bloated and they stank," Time
reported, citing a soldier. Under the Geneva Convention, the disposal of war
dead "should be honorable, and, if possible, according to the rites of the
religion the deceased belonged."
The United States has gone to great lengths to win over Afghans, sending
billions in aid and using its troops for humanitarian work. But TV footage
purportedly showing US soldiers burning the bodies of Taliban rebels threatens
to fray that goodwill. With Islamic clerics warning of a violent anti-American
backlash, the alleged desecration of dead Muslims has American commanders
scrambling to contain a public relations calamity that comes as they struggle to
bolster support for their war against a stubborn insurgency.
Cremating bodies, even those of animals, is banned in Islam. One Muslim cleric
in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said, "Bodies should only be burned in hell. The
burnings of these bodies is an offense to Muslims everywhere. ... It makes no
difference that they were Taliban," the cleric, Said Mohammed Omar, told The
Associated Press outside his mosque.
Some students called for street demonstrations. "We must protest this. If we
don't, U.S. soldiers will do the same thing again," said Zabiola, a student
leader at Kabul University, who like many Afghans uses only one name. Another
student, Jamshid Agha, speaking after Friday prayers, said that when he heard
the news, he was "so angry with America, I felt like taking a weapon and
The last anti-American protests in Afghanistan that turned violent were in May
over a report by Newsweek, later retracted, that U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo
Bay detention facility abused Islam's holy book, the Quran. Australia's SBS
television network this week broadcast a video purportedly showing American
soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters in hills outside
southern Gonbaz village, which is in a region plagued by Taliban activity. The
footage shows about five soldiers in light-colored military fatigues, which did
not have any distinguishing marks, standing near a bonfire in which two bodies
were laid side by side.
The network said the video was taken by a freelance journalist, Stephen Dupont.
He told AP it was taken Oct. 1 while he was embedded with the Army's 173rd
Airborne Brigade. For some Afghans, the damage was already done. "During the
past quarter-century of war, I have never heard of anyone burning dead bodies,"
said a senior cleric in Kandahar, Abdul Qayum. "The Americans claim to be here
to bring peace, but what are we supposed to think about this?"
Clerics Call for Christian Convert's Death Despite Western Outrage
Thursday , March 23, 2006
Afghanistan — Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that an Afghan man who
converted from Islam to Christianity must be executed and if the government
caves into Western pressure and frees him they will incite people to "pull him
The trial of
Abdul Rahman has fired passions in this conservative Muslim nation and
highlighted a conflict of values between Afghanistan and its Western backers.
is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die,"
said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three
times for opposing the Taliban before the hardline regime was ousted in 2001.
Rahman, a 41-year
old former medical aid worker, faces the death penalty under Afghanistan's
Islamic laws for becoming a Christian. His trial, which began last week, has
caused an international outcry. U.S. President George W. Bush has said he is
"deeply troubled" by the case and expects the country to "honor the universal
principle of freedom."
Angela Merkel told reporters that she received assurances from Afghan President
Hamid Karzai in a telephone call that Rahman would not be sentenced to death.
"I have the
impression that he (Karzai) has a firm willingness" to abide by the human rights
requirements and "I hope we will be able to resolve this," Merkel said going
into pre-EU summit talks.
said the Afghan government was searching for a way to drop the case, and on
Wednesday authorities said Rahman is suspected of being mentally ill and would
undergo psychological examinations to see whether he is fit to stand trial.
But three Sunni
preachers and a Shiite one interviewed by The Associated Press in four of
Kabul's most popular mosques said they don't believe Rahman is insane.
"He is not crazy.
He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said
Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.
is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is
Raoulf, who is a
member of the country's main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council,
agreed, saying, "The government are playing games. The people will not be
"Cut off his
head!" he exclaimed, sitting in a courtyard outside Herati Mosque. "We will call
on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left."
He said the only
way for Rahman to survive would be for him to go into exile outside Afghanistan.
Mirhossain Nasri, the top cleric at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite
places of worship in Kabul, said Rahman must not be allowed to leave the
"If he is allowed
to live in the West then others will claim to be Christian so they can too," he
said. "We must set an example. ... He must be hanged."
The clerics said
they were angry with the United States and other countries for pushing for
"We are a small
country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us, but please don't
interfere in this issue," Nasri said. "We are Muslims and these are our beliefs.
This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us."
constitution is based on Shariah law, which is interpreted by many Muslims to
require that any Muslim who rejects Islam be sentenced to death.
that if the government frees Rahman, "There will be an uprising" like one
against Soviet occupying forces in the 1980s.
will lose the support of the people," he said. "What sort of democracy would it
be if the government ignored the will of all the people."
rights group Amnesty International issued a statement, saying that if Rahman has
been detained solely for his religious beliefs, he would be a "prisoner of
against him should be dropped and if necessary he should be protected against
any abuses within the community," the London-based group said.
believed to have lived in Germany for nine years after converting to
Christianity while working as a medical aid worker for an international
Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He returned to Kabul in
It was not
immediately clear when Rahman's trial will resume. Authorities have barred
attempts by the AP to see him and he is not believed to have a lawyer.
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