Seven months ago, 14-year-old Sahar Gul was given in marriage to a 30-year-old man.  After not being able to see their daughter for several months, Sahar’s parents contacted local police.  Last month, police rescued the teenager, badly beaten and starving, from a dark, windowless basement room in her in-laws’ home after neighbors reported hearing the girl crying and moaning in pain.

According to reports from multiple Afghan authorities, Sahar’s in-laws had locked her in a toilet after she resisted their efforts to force her into prostitution to earn money for them.  Director of the Women’s Affairs Department in Baghlan, Rahima Zarifi, told MSNBC World News that Sahar had been severely tortured, physically and mentally.  Police told the BBC that Sahar’s nails and clumps of her hair had been pulled out, and chunks of her flesh were cut out with pliers.  Officials in Baghlan province told MSNBC that Sahar’s in-laws kept her in a basement for six months, tortured her with hot irons and broke her fingers.  A week after her rescue, Sahar was reportedly still covered in scars and bruises, with one eye still swollen shut.  Sahar is receiving medical care and treatment in a Kabul hospital.

A special 10-man police unit has been set up to hunt for Sahar’s husband and others behind her torture, Afghan officials told the BBC.  Although Sahar’s mother-in-law, sister-in-law and father-in-law have been arrested, her husband, Ghulam Sakhi, has managed to elude authorities.  An interior ministry spokesman told BBC News, “This is incredibly serious and not acceptable and all those responsible will be brought in to make an example to others.”  Baghlan governor, Munshi Abdul Majid, told The New York Times, “This is an un-Islamic and inhuman act.”

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission registered 1,026 cases of violence against women and girls in the second quarter of 2011, alone.  According to MSNBC World News, many women and girls are afraid to flee because, in Afghanistan, running away from an abusive husband is considered a moral crime, grounds for imprisonment.

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