News / Europe

EU Blocks Release of Afghan Documentary

Habiba, who has completed three years of a 10-year prison sentence for murder, holds her daughter Nazanin who was born in jail three years ago but still cannot walk, as they rest in their bunk bed inside Pul-e Charkhi prison in Kabul, Afghanistan. (File P
Habiba, who has completed three years of a 10-year prison sentence for murder, holds her daughter Nazanin who was born in jail three years ago but still cannot walk, as they rest in their bunk bed inside Pul-e Charkhi prison in Kabul, Afghanistan. (File P
Lisa Bryant

The European Union has sparked controversy by deciding not to release a documentary on women prisoners in Afghanistan. Exploring the phenomenon of "moral crimes," the film underscores the harsh realities facing Afghan women, despite legislation to protect their rights.

Commissioned by the European Union, the documentary tells the harrowing stories of two women locked in Afghanistan's jails for so-called "moral crimes." According to reports, one is a rape victim. Another ran away from a husband who beat her.

But the EU has not released the documentary. The Associated Press news agency cites an email sent by an EU official raising concerns about the women's safety, but also about Europe's relations with Afghan justice institutions.

Michael Mann, chief spokesman for European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, rejects suggestions that politics played a role. The only worry, he says, is that the women portrayed in the documentary are protected.

"Any suggestion that I've read where somehow [we're] trying to prevent the plight of women reaching the public domain is absolute nonsense, that's the whole idea of us commissioning the film in the first place, we want to draw attention to the plight of these women," said Mann.

Several hundred women are currently jailed for moral crimes, according to Human Rights Watch's Heather Barr, who is interviewing a number of them for an upcoming report. The rights group won't comment on the controversy. But Barr says the stories in the EU documentary are all too common.

"What you see when you talk with women who are in prison for what are called moral crimes here is that some of them have been accused of running away from home, which as I said is not even a crime under Afghan law, and some of them have been accused of zina, which is an act of sex between two people who aren't married to each other," said Barr.

Despite recent legislation making violence and rape against women illegal, Barr says the number of women imprisoned for moral crimes has actually gone up.

Equally worrying is what happens to them when they're set free.

"Quite a few of them feel like they're going to be forced back into the abusive situation that they escaped from and some have said very clearly that they expect their families are likely to kill them, because they've brought shame on their families by ending up in prison."

Afghanistan will be in the international spotlight early next month, when Germany hosts a conference on the country's future. Barr says Afghan women's rights activists have been pushing for their own speaking slot at the meeting, so far, with no success.

"So I think we're going to see a conference that really sidelines women," said Barr. "And a conference where the fact that there are still hundreds of women in prison, basically for being victims of domestic violence, is really not going to be an issue which anyone is interested in discussing."

But Mann of the European Union, says the EU, for one, is committed to pushing for judicial reform in Afghanistan and for greater women's rights.

"We're very big supporters of human rights in the European Union and we believe these women should have equal human rights as everyone in society," said Mann. "And that's the message we want to get across."

Mann says the EU is currently looking for ways to release the documentary, while protecting the women prisoners who are featured in it.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid