Afghan woman says raped by police chief when she tried to report her own rape
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By Zabihullah Noori
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A young Afghan woman who went to the police station to report being raped was then raped by the district police commissioner in his office, she said on Monday.
The 18-year-old, who gave her name as Mariam, was taken at gunpoint from her house in the Zareh district of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan in early July.
The man took her to a house on the same street where he and another man raped her, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
"When I went with my father to report the rape case, the police commissioner ordered my father to wait outside, and took me into his office where he also raped me," said Mariam.
After raping her, he warned her to "keep her mouth shut" or she would be killed, Mariam said by phone from Kabul where she is staying with her father.
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries to be a woman or girl in, and a shortage of female police officers means women rarely report abuse, rights groups say.
Research indicates that more than eight in 10 women in Afghanistan have been sexually, physically or psychologically abused, but only a few thousand cases are reported each year.
For cultural and social reasons it is very difficult for an Afghan woman to approach a male officer, Oxfam has said, and when they do their complaints are rarely handled properly. In some cases the police assault or even rape women who come for help, the aid agency said.
In this case, the police commissioner, Akram Zareh, denied any wrongdoing.
"I am an honest policeman. I am 60. She is like my daughter," Zareh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. "This is a plot against me."
Mariam's father, Khairuddin, brought his daughter to the capital Kabul to draw attention to her story and seek justice.
"My daughter said that she would burn herself alive, because she could not go out of the house and could not make eye contact with anyone due to shame," Khairuddin said by phone.
He said he met Afghanistan's attorney general who promised to investigate the case.
"Respecting her privacy, the attorney general asked Mariam to tell her story to a special female anti-violence officer in private," Baktash Azizi, the attorney general's chief of staff, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"After hearing the case, the attorney general appointed the Balkh provincial prosecutor and a special military prosecutor to investigate and present their findings as soon as possible."
Zareh is still serving as the district police commissioner, and was already being investigated in another rape case, Azizi said.
In Kabul, Mariam said she would not go home until he was removed from office. "I will burn myself, but will not go back home where he is ruling. I will stay here until I get justice," she said.
(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)
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