Afghan cleric sentenced to 20 years for raping young girl

BY: Deutsche Welle
A blurred image conceals the identity of a young Afghan girl who sought justice after being raped.

A court in Kabul has sentenced a religious teacher to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl. The judgment was welcomed by women's groups.

The girl's family expressed satisfaction at the court's decision to imprison the mullah for 20 years. Her uncle, Mohammed Rasoul, told the Associated Press: "We welcome the decision by the judge as that is the maximum punishment he could be given according to our country's law."

The case had been transferred to a court in Kabul which issued its judgment on Saturday. The rape took place in May this year in a mosque in Kunduz in Northern Afghanistan, where the cleric taught many children including the girl, who is known as Bershna.

Hasina Sarwari, head of a women's shelter in Kunduz, told the Associated Press that the crime occurred when the mullah chose three girls to help clean the mosque. Two of the girls managed to escape after the cleric's intentions became clear, but Bershna fell into a stream and was taken back to the mosque and raped.

The cleric also threatened Bershna that she and her family would be killed if she told anyone about the incident, but her severe injuries could not remain hidden for a long time, Sarwari added. The women's activist also took the young girl to a hospital in Kabul, where she was treated for her wounds.

Spokesman for the Kunduz police, Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, said that his department was shocked at hearing such a story but that the officers hastened to arrest the mullah: "We sent a police unit to make the arrest and we caught Mullah Mohammad Amin while he was trying to flee."

Women's rights organizations in Afghanistan have welcomed the court's decision since rape is often equated with adultery in Afghanistan. Other than the psychological trauma that follows rape, women often face prison themselves.