Stories from Badam Bagh women’s prison in Kabul, Afghanistan
Based on the documentary ‘Love crime of Kabul’ by director and producer Tanaz Eshaghian
Kareema and Firuz had premarital sex. That’s forbidden. The remarkable part, she’s the one turning them in.
Now they’re both in jail and their families are thus pitted against each other. Firuz’s parents haven’t anything good to say about Kareema. According to them, she forced herself into their family, onto Firuz, as a witch with special powers. She just comes across as an ordinary girl, forcing her hand to not be left without a husband after loosing her virginity. She’s pregnant.
They also don’t agree about the fact she isn’t from the same tribe. They had another girl in mind. That’s off the table. Now, negotiations have to be made with Kareema’s family to restore the honour. The judge will be more lenient if the two youngsters marry. Just what Kareema had wanted to achieve all along. Firuz wished he never had laid eyes on her, but he doesn’t have a good alternative. He could, same as her, be sentenced up to fifteen years. Firuz doesn’t come from money and Kareema’s price of 30,000 dollar, what she wants to receive if he issues a divorce one day in the future, is a big problem. The female judge thinks Kareema is unreasonable, but the girl thinks about her future and having security. Somehow they reach an agreement and the marriage is a fact. Right after the accomplished business like marriage, they’re send back to jail, awaiting court date and sentencing.
At criminal court, Kareema again checks with the negotiator between the two families if he has paid her father. He didn’t. She already figured he wouldn’t and isn’t happy about that aspect at all.
She and Firuz both are led into a room. He keeps on his ankle bracelets. She has wrist cuffs.
In accordance of the law, regarding this crime, under article 427, they both are charged with Acts 144 and 146. The punishment has a minimum of three months. The judge points out they are in jail for almost that period. If the three months are up, they’ll get released and the paperwork filled out.
Firuz kisses the judge’s hand and thanks him. Kareema thanks him too.
Now they only have to do four more days in prison. Then it’s done and they can go home to work on the ‘family unit’, which is very important in Islāmic law. Both families can put ‘their suffering’ behind them, according to the judge.
Her parents aren’t happy like Kareema is. They think she will become the other family’s dog and servant. Maybe she will, but her mother thinks she then just has reaped what she sowed. It’s not their business anymore. Kareema is now her husband’s and his family’s responsibility.
Sabereh and the neighborhood boy
A sweet and very young-looking 18-year-old girl has been arrested, while she had a boy in her parental home. Her name is Sabereh. She and a neighborhood boy were having a meal at the dinner table when police came. She has had a medical exam, to determine if she’s still a virgin. She is vaginally, but the report claims there had been some sort of penetration anally. That makes her case worse. Anal sex is considered a horrible act to do in the Islāmic world, living under Sharia law. Her court date gets rescheduled for two weeks later, to give her father a chance to try to negotiate with the boy’s parents for marrying them off. If they can get married, they’ll get released because there wasn’t any sexual relations. There are no laws about ‘the anal issue from the report’. The female warden asks about ‘her partner in crime’ and Sabereh tells her the boy is in the Children’s rehab centre. He’s just seventeen.
The negotiations didn’t go well. The boy’s father isn’t willing to let his son marry Sabereh.
At court Sabereh’s there, her father and her defense attorney. According to him, she should get released under article 25 of the Constitution.
According to the judge, Sebareh admitted she had an affair with the boy. Her father had testified he caught them in the back room together. It doesn’t look so good for her. Punishment is one up to fifteen years. She’s sentenced with three.
Her father isn’t willing to accept this. He’s fighting for her. When he’s downstairs to get the paperwork filled out, he’s pleading for her.
‘She didn’t do anything. She’s still a virgin!’
The response:’If you’re not happy, there are higher courts.’
With that comment, the matter is finished. Nodding negatively in disappointment, father leaves the room. The judge, later interviewed again, adds that he thinks the medical report has proven solidly and convincingly evidence, plus she confessed.
According to him she had said: ‘Yes, I have engaged in sodomy with him several times.’
We can’t know if that’s really true. No foreign people and their camera’s were allowed in the courtroom. As a last reason, the judge points out they were caught in the act by her own father at night.
Another woman killed her husband and was sentenced to 18 years. She isn’t sorry. Brutally honest, she says she would do it again, because he deserved it. She claims he was having illegal sex with other women, a seven-year-old girl and even a boy. She saw no other choice than to take matters into her own hands. Nobody else did something about his despicable actions. She’s six years into her sentence at the time of her interview. In her opinion, she feels she was justified by taking his life. The law saw it different.
Zia and Aleema
And then there are Zia, an older woman, and Aleema, a younger woman. In jail, because they’re involved in the same criminal event. Aleema came to her house, because she got treated badly at home. She had broken her curfew and didn’t dare to go home. She claims her family talks with knives. It’s a crime to run away from your parent’s or husband’s house, but she felt she had no choice. Zia took her in. There the problem started, because Zia had a married son in the house. A man and a woman in the same house, while unmarried and unrelated, is forbidden. Zia wants Aleema as her daughter-in-law. She’s negotiating with her directly to get her that far to become the second wife of her son. She has all day long, day after day, to convince her accomplish-in-crime. She feels Aleema won’t find a better mother-in-law and a better husband. Her son isn’t just a bum of the street, but one with a job and a car at home. Aleema doesn’t feel for it.
In the beginning, she responds to it lightheartedly. Later it gets annoying and she changes her attitude. She just lets Zia pleads ‘her case’ to her, responding with silence. Even Zia’s tears, about the shame that everybody knows they had a girl in the house that didn’t belong there, doesn’t move the divorcee. She just finishes her meal, cleans up the plates and the cloth off the floor and walks away. The mentioned married son is in jail too. He claims his wife will be fine with him marrying a second woman. The police man, in the same room hearing that statement, laughs. It would be the first woman in Afghanistan feeling fine with such a happening, is his comment. The married man’s statement isn’t very believable, correct, if you take the fact in mind that the man’s wife turned all three of them in.
Aleema’s court day is due, but she refuses to show up, because Zia will be there. Zia pleads with the female warden in charge to talk some sense into Aleema. ‘That harlot woman came to my house with her bottom naked’. And now she won’t show up in court and prefers to stay in prison because she likes it. Can’t the warden counsel her? Zia asks. Yes, the warden promises, she will take care of it. Apparently she did, because Aleema is in court on their date. She hasn’t changed her mind about marrying Zia’s son, though. He’s present there as well, along with his mother. Aleema’s sentenced to ten months and Zia to eighteen months. The court apparently saw ground Zia was trying to sell Aleema off. It isn’t clear what sentence the married son got.
Aleema says she has no support. She is on her own completely. If she’s released, she can’t go back home. Her parents are proud Afghans and they feel disgraced by her. She claims her parents will quietly drown her. She shrugs about that.
Lack of compassion
You would think the women would have more compassion with each other in prison. A certain amount’s there for basically the same crimes. They don’t. While they consider themselves not guilty of anything, they do think the other women brought it upon themselves they ended up behind bars. And they are not shy about saying that out loud to each other.
Each court has its own authority, so it is not always clear what a judge will decide, how a case will end. Punishment isn’t for the sake of punishment, but for reforming society and to benefit the individual. At least, that’s what Kabul authorities claim. The question, of course, is: how much benefit really exists here for the individual?
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