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Two tales of brutality to women in Afghanistan

Woman who was rescued from stoning
Image caption The woman in Kunduz had an extremely narrow escape and is now in hiding

Women's rights may have moved up the agenda in Afghanistan over the last decade, but violence against women has increased sharply, rights groups say. Two recent cases of brutality have shocked the nation, as the BBC's Mahfouz Zubaide and Yo Haniewicz in Kabul report. Readers may find some of the details in these accounts distressing.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has said that the number of cases of violence against women in 2013 has risen by 24.7% compared with last year - an increase it describes as "staggering".

Some of these reports will be the kind of everyday violence that a number of Afghan women face at home. Many women are too afraid to seek justice because, campaigners say, more often than not their cases are ignored.

But others are cases of brutality meted out in areas under Taliban control such as the case in 2010 where a couple were stoned to death in a village in the northern province of Kunduz.

Over the last week, there have been two shocking examples of women's treatment in Afghanistan.

The first also comes from Kunduz - but three years after that couple were stoned to death, the police managed to rescue one woman from a similar fate. The second case focuses on the sad tale of Sutara, who says her husband sliced off her lip and nose because she refused to hand him her jewellery to buy drugs.

Rescued from stoning in Kunduz

In a remote northern village, a woman was about to be stoned to death after her husband accused her of adultery.

It is all the more remarkable for being a case where the police managed to rescue the woman from the Taliban - there have been few examples of such cases.

The militants put her into a fenced compound for two days before the police swooped in and plucked her to safety. She told the BBC about her ordeal.

"After my husband divorced me, I went to my father's home where the Taliban would come day and night as unpaid guests. Unfortunately the whole area is controlled by the Taliban.

"When my father, along with other villagers got fed up with this because they were concerned that the government forces would quiz them on why they were feeding and supporting the Taliban, they told them to go to the mosque and they would provide food for them there," she said.

According to her, this angered the Taliban who, she says, "seized the opportunity to turn on me".

In this case, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sidiq Siddiqi said that the police fought hard against the Taliban for two hours in order to rescue the woman and took her to a safe house where she will remain with her children.

"I have decided to fight for my rights against my husband. Of course, I can't fight the Taliban - the government should deal with them but I will do what my husband did to me, I will fight him but I will do it via the courts."

Sutara: Engaged at 11, mutilated at 30

Thirty-year-old Sutara spoke to the BBC from her hospital bed in the western city of Herat after being subjected to a savage knife attack by her husband.

Image caption Sutara's life will never be the same again

She became engaged to her husband when she was 11 and claims that he became addicted to heroin while working in Iran.

On Friday, 13 December, she says that her husband insisted that she hand over her jewellery to him so he could sell it to buy some drugs.

She refused - so her husband hit the back of her head with a stone and she lost consciousness, she says. While she was unconscious, her husband stabbed her head several times, she says, and then he sliced off her top lip and cut off her nose.

Sutara's four daughters, who range in age from three to 12, were at home at the time of the attack.

She was taken to hospital and the children were taken to her mother to be looked after. Meanwhile, Sutara's husband ran away and he is still in hiding. Police are looking for him.

Sutara says that once her husband is found, she wants some justice

Interior ministry spokesman Sidiq Siddiqi said: "We have plenty of evidence against her husband so when he is found, and after the police have carried out a complete investigation, he will be handed over to the court and will end up behind bars.

"Meanwhile we will send Sutara overseas to receive more medical treatment but sadly her children will have been traumatised to witness such a horrific attack."

For many observers, the problem is that women are afraid to report violence because they know the law and its practice favours men.

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, MP says that this year there have been more instances of violence against women

She said the trend was continuing because "men know they can get away with it" due a law designed to protect women not being fully implemented.

"In addition, the Supreme Court in Afghanistan is male-dominated which filters down to the lower courts so women don't have a strong voice to get them justice. It's worrying because we have no clear definition of what will happen to women after 2014," Ms Naderi says.

But these are just two recent cases that have come to public knowledge - many more go unreported and campaigners say the unfortunate truth is that the first case is all the more remarkable because the woman was rescued.

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