After she was raped, she was charged with adultery

The EU commissioned a documentary film on women in Afghanistan who get shoved into prison for doing outrageous things like leaving abusive “husbands” they never wanted to marry in the first place. The documentary was duly made, at which point the EU got cold feet and said on second thought let’s put this documentary in a locked drawer and never think about it again.

The documentary told the story of a 19-year-old prisoner called Gulnaz.

After she was raped, she was charged with adultery. Her baby girl, born
following the rape, is serving her sentence with her.

“At first my sentence was two years,” Gulnaz said, as her baby coughed in her
arms. “When I appealed it became 12 years. I didn’t do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?”

Or, for that matter, at all? Why not, rather, sentence the rapist? Now there’s a novel idea!

But don’t worry: there’s a happy ending for Gulnaz.

Gulnaz’s pardon may be in the works because she has agreed – after 18 months
of resisting – to marry her rapist.

“I need my daughter to have a father,” she said.

Nothing to add.


  1. says

    Some of the women convicted of “zina” are guilty of nothing more than running away from forced marriages or violent husbands.

    In other words, these women are imprisoned whatever they do.

  2. Zugswang says

    What’s the lesson, kids? It’s wrong to enforce mandated sex slavery using arbitrary, flimsy, and unfounded rationalizations, but it’s MORE wrong to run the risk of getting hurt while righteously standing up for a ubiquitously abused and disenfranchised minority.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    But remember – if we pull US/NATO troops out of Afghanistan, then the wimmenz will lose their rights and freedoms!

  4. theobromine says

    Also, provides a distressing answer to the question of why women don’t just stand up for themselves.

    I know FTB has no control over the ads, but my irony meter was seriously pegged by this one:

    Pageant Princess:
    Dress Up, Make Up, Style Hair
    Help her win the crown!”

  5. says

    Gulnaz’s pardon may be in the works because she has agreed – after 18 months of resisting – to marry her rapist.

    I don’t understand how men can treat women in such an abusive fashion. This has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with hatred. Sheer, unmitigated misogyny.

    I fucking hate our species.

  6. Roger says

    “I didn’t do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?”
    It’s frighening that she accepts the ‘right’ of men to punish her even for not doing anything.

  7. Simon says

    We should remember this any time we hear opportunistic politicians try and say that the occupation of Afghanistan has anything to do with human rights.

  8. Francisco Bacopa says

    You gotta realize these people have no concept of a woman’s consent at all. Rape is not a crime against a woman, but a crime against a woman’s (or girl’s) “owner”.

    We see this in The Bible. The whole “she cries out near the city gates” and “she does not cry out” stipulations show that it is not about the the woman’s consent, but about what kind of property damages the woman’s owner is due.

    In some ways this makes the whole “marry the rapist and pay damages to her father” thing more palatable. If she was near the city gates and did not cry out, the sexual activity was likely consensual. But her consent does not matter. Daddy cannot sell her off to a higher bidder, so it makes sense daddy gets some financial compensation and the woman is “forced” to marry her rapist. If the Laws of the Bible were ever consistently enforced I am sure some clever girls gamed the system by getting consensually “raped”. But I doubt that ever happened much. There’s too much general hatred of women in the system to allow this.

    So what we end up with is women who really got raped even according to western standards being put into prison.

  9. mirax says

    “Also, provides a distressing answer to the question of why women don’t just stand up for themselves.”

    Sorry but I cant let this pass. This woman – living in poverty, probably illiterate, in a country with no opportunities for women to work and financially support themselves and their dependents- was resisting and standing up for herself and I am in awe of her courage. She rejected the man, got raped, imprisoned and pressured to marry the rapist and she bloody held out for 18 months. She has backbone and determination and is of an entirely different calibre from the stupid, stupid women who join the Quiverfull Movement in your country or the Obedient Wives Club in my country.

  10. says

    She has backbone and determination and is of an entirely different calibre from the stupid, stupid women who join the Quiverfull Movement in your country or the Obedient Wives Club in my country.

    And how many more do you think will shut up and take it because of her example?
    And if you notice, they’ve broken her in the end. She’ll become an obedient wife, let him rape her more and have more of his children.
    You don’t need law-enforcement to break somebody. But it helps.

  11. says

    I’ve no wish to be Mr Moderate but Mirax clearly wasn’t “slut-shaming”, and theobromine clearly meant other women, not the ones the BBC had met.

  12. mirax says


    It seems to me that you know all about ‘victims’ but dont understand jackshit about resistance and strength, especially in circumstances when it seems utterly pointless and hopeless to put up any kind of a struggle. It seems that it is heresy to suggest that women like Gulnaz who truly have every fucking bloody thing in life stacked against them, still have a more powerful sense of self rather than a lot of very misguided women who literally sign up for the worst possible excesses of misogyny.

    Yes, of course now I am the slut-shamer and misogynist and need to take myself off. If Ophelia who actually owns this blog says so, I will go. No problem.

  13. says

    mirax, I love how you put the word victims in scare quotes, indicating that you don’t think those women to be victims at all.
    Well, yes, that’s slut shaming at it’s best. That’s the slut shaming women encounter who were date raped. She signed up for it, she went out with him, she wore that skirt, she got drunk, don’t they understand shitjack about prudency?
    Only in your case it’s that they joined a patriarchal religious movement “freely” (the extend depends on individual circumstances), or entered into an abusive relationship freely, which obviously means they’re complicit and no longer victims.
    What I do understand about resistence and strength is that not everybody has it. That doesn’t mean those who don’t fight back are no longer victims.
    Tell me, when you hear from a rape victim that xie just lay back and took it, do you tell them stories about women who were able to fight their attackers off and ask them what’s wrong with them?
    You, mirax, understand shit about psychology. You throw people, most of all women under the bus because they dare to be imperfect, dare to be weak, dare to make mistakes.

    You are perpetuating the myth of the blameless victim. Gulnaz fits your definition, the women on “no longer quivering” don’t. But dividing the world in blameless victims and tainted victims only helps abusers.
    The horrible fate Gulnaz and other Afghan women encounter doesn’t make the abuse in the western world less. Oh, and btw, you are the one who took the thread from talking about the fates of Afghan women to moan about how bad women in the US are. Congratulations.

    To go back on topic:
    Her sentence is almost exactly what is prescribed in the Bible. I’m wondering how many Afghan men use that method “to get married”. Rape her and then offer to “rescue” her from the shame and the prison by marrying her.

  14. julian says

    She has backbone and determination and is of an entirely different calibre from the stupid, stupid women who join the Quiverfull Movement in your country or the Obedient Wives Club in my country.


    Now all we need to do is replace all the other muslim women who didn’t have such strength and we’ll have real victims. Not women who pretend to be taken advantage of.

    Honestly, do you really find what you just wrote convincing?

  15. Aliasalpha says

    “very real concerns for the safety of the women portrayed”, sounds ALMOST like someone actually cared enough (about their own arse) to think up a remotely plausible excuse for not releasing the film. I mean its not like we have the technology to mask identities in footage or anything…

    Perhaps this shows that the EU should be in charge of movie distribution, every other film gets leaked to torrent sites a few days or weeks before screening but apparently not this one

  16. astrosmash says

    I love the banner ad for “Muslim Singles” in liu of this post! There’s another one for “Mett Thai Women” that looks to be part of the same series. Both known for stellar records regarding the liberty and happiness of women!

  17. David Hart says

    The Ys: “I don’t understand how men can treat women in such an abusive fashion. This has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with hatred.”

    It has actually rather a lot to do with religion, when it is religion that is being used to justify hatred. How many secular countries have these kinds of laws on their books? This is why it is important to campaign for secularism – not just because theocracy is in itself harmful, but because it provides cover for people’s gender-based, race-based, sexual-orientation-based and other prejudices and bigotries.

    I once got sent an email from a gay rights group asking me to sign a petition against the proposed ‘kill the gays’ law in Uganda – and the organisers took great pains to say that that had ‘nothing to do with religion’ – when in fact every organisation that I’m aware of that is campaigning against gay rights has an explicitly religious agenda. This appears to be a similar circumstance.

  18. theobromine says

    @mirax says: She has backbone and determination and is of an entirely different calibre from the stupid, stupid women who join the Quiverfull Movement in your country or the Obedient Wives Club in my country

    First, “my country” is not the US, though there are doubtless some Canadian Quiverfullers as well.

    But, also in my country, there is a trial currently underway for a man who was accused of drowning one of his wives and his 3 teenage daughters, with the assistance of his son and his other wife.

    His oldest daughter tried to leave at 19 by marrying a man she did not love – she thought it would give her a way out, and was willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of her sisters (17 and 13).

    Here is what the accused said:

    “Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows, nothing is more dear to me than my honour. Let’s leave our destiny to God, and may God never make me, you or your mother honourless…There is nothing more valuable than our honour.”

  19. Maria says

    Oh jeez. I remember when that car was found. There was such a huge media fuss when it looked like a tragic accident. It just smelled wrong to me. I actually remember going on Google earth and looking at the exact spot in the report. As soon as the story started to unravel and it looked more and more that it was an Honor Killing, to the point of being stereotypical? The news clammed up so quick and buried it. *shakes head*

  20. theobromine says

    I’ve actually been to the spot where it happened – it’s only a couple of hours drive, and I have gone camping near there a few times. (I did suspect foul play as soon as I heard about it – it’s not at all easy to get a car into the water around there.) As far as the media “clamming up”, at least here it’s normal that once there is a criminal investigation underway there tends to be not much publicity until the trial takes place. But there is plenty of publicity now – it’s been on the local radio and television news every day.

    (For anyone who is interested, I have put a list of links as part of a post on the Centre for Inquiry-Ottawa blog –, since I would expect to be blocked by moderation out if I tried to post them here)

  21. says

    mirax, hell no I don’t want you to leave! As I’m sure you know.

    Giliell, really, you’ve misread mirax badly. She’s been commenting on my stuff for years and she is certainly no “slut-shamer.” (I would quite like to see that term retired. I saw way too much of it from a certain erm tireless commentator on All That.) Take a deep breath. mirax is no enemy.

  22. Rhoda says

    Does this woman want to escape Afghanistan?

    I would gladly contribute to airfare and provide a place for her to live here in the U.S. for as long as I could.

  23. says

    Giliell, really, you’ve misread mirax badly.

    Well, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s wondering why she needs to go after women within patriarchal US-American religious groups whenever there’s the opportunity to do so.

    I have, thankfully, no experience with either religious cults nor abusive relationships on a personal level.
    But my hate does not primarily go out against the women. I’ve seen friends stumble into abusive relationships. I’ve seen them from the outside, as a friend who could not help.
    Not only because they made bad decissions, and yes, bad decissions they made indeed, but also because their abusers where clever and cunning.
    Their abusers used every bit of patriarchal baggage that we carry, we all carry. They didn’t become victims of abusive relationships, and victims they were, without any scare-quotes, because they are weak-minded, or stupid, or have no backbone. They became victims because they are normal, fallible human beings, because they believed people they loved and trusted.
    They would not fit the brave-hero-perfect-victim-image. Who does?

    I’m wondering, if a woman within those patriarchal US-American groups who may be thinking about leaving read mirax’ comments, would she think that this is a place where she could find help and support, or would she think that “the other side” doesn’t want her anyway and there is nowhere to go?

    Why in a world full of misogyny, of abusive men and patriarchal structures and cultures would one need to bring up “the bad women” whenever possible?
    Why not praise courage and bravery as virtues as such and not in comparison with other women who are not so good?
    Why always kick other women?
    Why not kick the men, the bastards, the rapists and the police and judges who enable not only the rape, but also a system that doesn’t leave women any way out?

  24. says

    Again – you’re misreading her. That comment is full of absolutes, which don’t match mirax’s history at B&W. That’s why I say you’re misreading her.

    “whenever there’s the opportunity to do so.”

    “whenever possible?”

    “Why always kick other women?”

    All of those claims are wrong. You don’t know what you seem to think you know. You’re drawing very large conclusions based on…what is it? Two comments of mirax’s?

    You don’t have enough data to draw these huge conclusions. The conclusions are wrong. mirax doesn’t “always kick other women.”

  25. says

    To address one of the points that I think Mirax is making, I’ll agree that there are some women who have vested interests in maintaining the patriarchy (Debbie Pearl comes to mind, and probably Michelle Bachman as well). They have no excuse, and probably deserve all the scorn and excoriation we can heap on them.

    But, as for the majority of women in these situations, I worry that it’s too easy to underestimate the power that an abusive domineering personality can have over other people (whether men or women). One example is the family of the anti-gay pastor Fred Phelps. At, you can read about one of his estranged sons, Nate, who is now an outspoken advocate for GLBT rights, and against child abuse. Nate has heartwrenching accounts of the abuse that his mother and siblings endured at the hands of his father. A few of the kids ended up making it out on their own. One very disturbing story is of one who left and then returned, but has not been welcomed back and stays on the fringe of the church while she tries to work her way back into the good graces of her father (and regain her salvation).

  26. says

    Yes. I don’t really agree with mirax’s take…but that’s a different thing from accusing her of always kicking women. And then I’m not entirely sure I disagree with her either. I’m torn. I do take her point that Gulnaz’s courage is extraordinary – and I suppose I also think that portraying all women in such situations as totally victims risks just excusing everything. Women can be perps and captives at the same time; can be and often are. The adoptive “mother” of Hana Williams was one hell of a perp…but obviously both she and her husband are in some sense captives, captives of shitty ideas.

  27. says

    I also think that portraying all women in such situations as totally victims risks just excusing everything.

    That’s not what anybody, least me was saying. The labels “victim” and “perp/criminal” are not exclusive, you can be both at the same time, to different degrees.
    What we need is to understand those degrees and the mechanisms behind those. Why do well educated western women become part of misogynist religious groups, be it christian or muslim?
    How do abusive relationships work, what are obstacles for women that prevent them from leaving?

    You are right, I don’t know mirax from the old blog. I read only the articles on that because I didn’t bother signing up. So when I “met” mirax here she was trying to determine how much blame can be put on the women and how to tell the real victims from the non-victims. That was what shaped my perception of mirax.
    So on this story she chose not only to praise the courage of Gulnaz, which I fully share, but also used it as an opportunity to once again let her anger fly at the “stupid American women”.
    A praise that is combined with an “unlike XYZ” is only half a praise and more an excuse to chastise XYZ.
    “You are a wonderful friend” is a compliment. “You are a wonderful friend, not like Mary” is only half a compliment.

    Anyway, I think I’ll take a break here, before more derailing and fighting occurs.


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