Rape Victim’s Brother Cut Baby out of Womb in Forced Abortion

January 9, 2009 - 6:18 PM
Afghan Held for Forced Abortion of His Sister
Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) - The 14-year-old Afghan rape victim told the doctor that her brother took her to a cowshed, where he and her mother held her down as he cut out her 5-month fetus with a razor blade, then stitched up the wound with string.
 
The girl blacked out from the pain but said she remembered seeing her brother hold up the fetus, said Dr. Gulam Mohammad Nader, who treated the teen in a hospital in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.
 
The girl was in critical condition Friday at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul, where she was flown the night before after developing a dangerous infection, said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
 
The 20-year-old brother was arrested and told The Associated Press in an interview from his jail cell Friday that he was trying to shield the family from public scorn.
 
In conservative Afghanistan, the shame of sex outside marriage can ruin the lives of a victim and her family. Girls who are raped have little chance of ever getting married and are often blamed for the attack.
 
"I told my sister that this was bad for us, for our family, and bad for the community," said the brother, who asked that only his first name, Ali, be used. Police said he confessed to cutting out the fetus and burying it.
 
Nader said the girl told him she did not know what was planned when she was taken into the cowshed. He said a thick string, normally used to sew up potato sacks, was used to close the jagged incision.
 
Afghanistan is replete with stories of honor killings of women who have been raped or cheated on their husbands, though accused families usually deny any responsibility. Such cases rarely go to court.
 
Still, police and government officials involved in the 14-year-old's case said they had never heard of any family performing this type of brutal abortion in an attempt to hide a pregnancy.
 
Afghanistan's legal system is weak or nonexistent in some areas after years of war and insurgency. Most punishments are meted out according to Islamic Shariah law, which can be very severely interpreted in conservative regions like the one in central Afghanistan where the teen lived.
 
"Islam does not say that a woman who is raped should be killed because she is innocent," said Mullah Habibullah, a senior Muslim cleric in Kabul. "But some families, who don't know better and who aren't educated, sometimes they kill the woman."
 
The makeshift abortion came to light when the girl's wound became infected. Her father brought her by donkey about 10 days ago to the nearest hospital, about 30 miles from their rural village of Sarezulich, where he told doctors his daughter had been mauled by a dog, Nader said.
 
Doctors discovered the truth after examining the girl. They called provincial health officials, who told them to send her to the hospital in Bamiyan, about 60 miles away, as quickly as possible to protect her from further violence by her family.
 
"I was worried they would kill her," said Ihsanullah Shahir, the head of the province's health department. She arrived at Bamiyan hospital Tuesday.
 
Ali has said he acted alone, though Nader and the administrative head of the district where the family lives, Mohammad Nasir Fayaz, said the girl told them her mother helped hold her down.
 
Provincial Police Chief Ewaz Khan said authorities plan to arrest the mother, but are waiting to take her into custody because she is an 11-hour trip away and recovering from recently giving birth herself. The remote village is difficult to reach by phone and the mother could not be reached for comment.
 
The body of the fetus has been recovered, according to Khan.
 
The man accused of raping the girl, a construction worker helping build a school near the teen's home, is in custody, according to Bamiyan Gov. Habiba Sarabi.
 
Authorities have become more likely to prosecute rape cases in recent years, but most convicted assailants still only serve a nominal prison term.
 
Ali said he now regrets his actions and didn't think he was risking his sister's life.
 
"I had thought it was simple," he said.