Asia

Reza Gul: The Afghan woman whose husband cut off her nose

Reza Gul is waiting to be transferred for further treatment in Turkey
Image caption Reza Gul is waiting to be transferred for further treatment in Turkey

A young Afghan woman whose husband is being sought by police for cutting her nose off has told the BBC of the years of abuse she suffered. Hussamuddin Toyghon of the BBC Uzbek-Afghan service reports from Maimana.

The story caused an outcry after pictures of Reza Gul's face were shared on social media, with many deploring Afghanistan's shocking record of domestic violence.

Reza Gul was attacked in the remote Ghormach district of north-western Faryab province last week.

Cradling her baby daughter, Reza Gul spoke to the BBC from her hospital bed in Maimana, the provincial capital.

She is 20 now, and during nearly six years of marriage she says she suffered continuous cruelty and abuse.

"They would beat me. They wouldn't feed me or give me flour to bake bread," she recalls. "They would beat me on the head, shackle my feet and lock me up in the stable with a donkey."

Reza Gul was just 15 when she married Mohammad Khan, a man she had never met and who had been in Iran prior to the wedding.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Reza Gul fled the abuse, but returned after assurances she would be treated well
Image caption Reza Gul says she has been mistreated throughout her marriage

It was an arranged marriage like most in Afghanistan, agreed by the girl's father with Mohammad Khan's family.

She says she did not want to marry him, "but I had no choice".

"He destroyed my youth, I want help," she told the BBC.

From her account, she had little help during the six years that followed.

"I was married but he would go to Iran," she says. "On every visit he would spend 20 days at home before going back."

During those visits she was often beaten and locked up. She says she doesn't understand why.

"I did nothing wrong, I've never stolen anything. I have never committed adultery. They were just punishing me without a reason. He was a pig."

She says she never dared to argue and she had no help from anyone in her husband's family.

Reza Gul says that local elders and even the Taliban intervened on several occasions, extracting promises from her husband that the abuse would end.

Instead, the violence became worse.

Image caption Reza Gul with her baby, mother and father in Maimana hospital
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters on patrol in Faryab, one of the least secure Afghan provinces rife with crime and insurgent activity

With her father and mother at her bedside, she recounted what happened on the day she was finally brought to the relative safety of the hospital.

"There were eight people. They took me by car to the well. Two men were following us and six others were ahead," she recalls.

She said her husband "took a gun and a knife out of his pocket and fired four times in the air".

"He also had tablets and other medicine in his pocket."

"I said, 'What are you doing with the knife?'. He said, 'Should I kill you or cut off your nose?'

"I said, 'Kill me but please don't cut off my nose.' But he cut off my nose and threw it in the ditch."

Reza Gul recounts how her face started bleeding heavily as she was pushed back into the car. She says her brother-in-law took her to a doctor; her husband disappeared.

The local authorities say they are looking for Mohammad Khan, with unconfirmed reports suggesting he has fled to a Taliban-controlled area.

The BBC and other media have been unable to contact Mohammad Khan, whose whereabouts remain unclear.

Neither he nor his relatives have made any public statements or spoken to reporters. His family live in a highly insecure part of Ghormach district where phones do not work and it's not safe to send journalists.

Shocking

Doctors hope to be able to send Reza Gul to Turkey for reconstructive surgery.

The facilities to carry out such an operation do not exist in Afghanistan, where convictions for domestic abuse are rare.

As elsewhere in the region, the country has a reputation for violence against women and acid attacks and sexual assaults are widespread.

In November a young woman was stoned to death in Ghor province after she was accused of adultery. And last March a young Kabul woman, Farkhunda, was beaten and burnt to death by a mob over false allegations she had burnt a Koran.

The cutting off of a woman's nose is shocking even by Afghan standards, although there have been previous examples.

In September 2014 a man cut off part of his wife's nose with a kitchen knife in central Daykundi Province, according to police. It's not clear whether he was ever caught.

And in 2010 the case of Aisha featured on the front cover of Time magazine, after the 18-year-old was mutilated by her husband who cut off her nose and ears as punishment for running away.

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