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Family Struggles for Justice In Afghan Mother’s Death

  • Bethany Matta

In the northwest Afghan province of Kunduz earlier this year, a 22-year old woman was killed by her husband and mother-in-law for bearing two daughters. Although her death drew international attention, the husband remains free.

Innocence gone forever

Storai’s uncle describes the young woman as innocent and caring; a devout Muslim. “We wanted her to marry someone that would make her happy," he said. "She always wanted to marry into a religious family. Unfortunately we didn’t make that happen.”

Storai was married in a common Afghan practice known as an exchange, where her brother married her husband’s sister. Six months later she gave birth to a daughter. Neighbors say this is when the violence and threats began, mainly from her mother-in-law.

“Eighteen months later Storai delivered another baby girl. Our daughter in law, [the daughter of that family] would go check on Storai, She returned telling us that Storai was being punished. Right after giving birth to her second daughter, the mother-in-law put Storai inside the pen with the cows,“ Zalmai stated.

Abuse, leads to death

Several months later, Storai was found dead, hung from the ceiling in a manner consistent with suicide. But the local doctor attributed rope marks on her neck to strangulation.

The mother-in-law is now in Kunduz central jail. Storai’s husband is allegedly hiding under the protection of his militia commander named Qadirak.

Nadera Gia is the head of the Directorate of Women’s Affairs in Kunduz. She says the politically-connected militias operate beyond the reach of law. “When cases such as Storai’s arise and the criminal is not arrested there is support by some commander. Why are they not arrested? Arbakai, armed militia, is the answer to this question. The militias power is greater than their responsibility,” she explained.

Qadirak has a history of committing abuses in Kunduz, including intimidating teachers at a girls school.

He agreed to an interview and arrived under police protection. He denied any involvement in the Storai case.

“I have not been in Khanabad since the incident, for the past 20 days I have been in Kunduz city," Qadirak said. I don’t have any men under my command, he [the husband] is not with me, he never was.”

Residents and officials interviewed in Kunduz all dismissed Qadiraks’ claims.

Mother-in-law imprisoned, son free

Wali Hazrata, Storai’s imprisoned mother-in-law denies any wrongdoing in the case but confirms her son is a member of Qadirak’s militia. “My son joined Qadirak two years ago because he has many enemies. That morning Qadirak sent guards to escort him because his enemies were near the house,” she explained.

For now, the only one punished for Storai’s killing is another woman. Nadera Gia says the case is another reminder of Afghan women’s low status. “This weakens the participation of women in society, they feel alone with no support from the government,” she said.

Storai’s family is not giving up. They say as long as they have blood in their veins they will follow the case and find the killer.

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