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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs