An Afghan lawmaker threatened a female documentary filmmaker with sexual abuse during a video interview on women’s rights.
A video clip of the interview between Afghan parliament member Nazir Ahmad Hanafi and Isobel Yeung became a viral sensation over the weekend when it was posted on the Vice website.
Yeung confirmed details of the incident in an interview with VOA.
Yeung questioned Hanafi about his opposition to the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, a bill pending in the Afghan parliament since 2009.
“What if a husband rapes his wife. Is that domestic abuse?” Yeung asked Hanafi on the video. “Should the man be punished or should the woman be punished for that, in your opinion?”
“There is a kind of rape you have and another we have in Islam,” Hanafi told Yeung, who then pressed the issue.
“I think you should stop it now,” the lawmaker said.
As Hanafi turned away from her, he said: “Maybe I should give you to an Afghan man" who will sexually overpower you, according to VOA Afghan service staffers who viewed the video.
His remark was widely misinterpreted because of the way it was reported to the filmmaker by a translator, who sought to spare her feelings by using another common Afghan phrase that means to cut off one’s nose.
Symbol of domestic abuse
International attention was drawn to domestic abuse in Afghanistan when an Afghan man cut off his wife's nose in February. Living in Taliban-controlled northern Afghanistan, Reza Gul said she had suffered years of abuse before her husband cut off her nose in a fit of rage. She later underwent reconstructive surgery in Turkey.
Talking to Radio Liberty, Hanafi initially denied speaking to Yeung for her documentary.
"I haven't met such a person,” Hanafi told Radio Free Afghanistan after the film clip went viral, adding that maybe someone was impersonating him.
"It's very simple to make a video," he said. "There are people who put together a head, a beard and a body in a video that would look more authentic than the real person."
But when further confronted with the video, Hanafi said he was interviewed by Yeung but did not threaten her.
"When we were talking about marriage issues, I told her, 'If you want to know about it, you can marry an Afghan man,' " he told Radio Liberty.
'Tiny taste' of disrespect
“It was humiliating to be disregarded in that way,” said Yeung, whose documentary aired Sunday on HBO. “Throughout the interview, and even before, there was a hostile environment. It was very clear that he did not have much time for me as a person, and so he was not listening to any of my questions.”
Hanafi is a conservative Islamic scholar who represents the western province of Herat in parliament.
Yeung, who is calling for Hanafi’s resignation, said she experienced “a tiny, tiny, tiny taste of the amount of disrespect that many Afghan women have to battle every day.”
Hundreds of Afghans have taken to social media to condemn Hanafi.
“As long he is in parliament, he and people like him will remain a massive obstacle to women’s rights in Afghanistan,” Yeung said of Hanafi.