By Natasha Elkington
LONDON (AlertNet) – A row over a documentary on injustices suffered by Afghan women suggests little has changed for them in the 10 years since the U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan and the promise to deliver freedom has remained just that – a promise.
According to a story published by the Evening Standard on Tuesday, the European Union has threatened legal action against a London-based filmmaker for allegedly showing a documentary it commissioned, exposing abuse experienced by Afghan women, without its permission.
“It is the women’s choice to tell their stories and I admire their clear-eyed courage. It is not for us to veto their voices,” Clementine Malpas, who is accused of breaching her contract, told the Evening Standard.
Malpas was hired by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights to highlight the the plight of women jailed for “moral crimes”, known as “zina” in Farsi, who make up half the prison population. Their “crimes” are usually committed when trying to flee from domestic violence, including abuse from male relatives.
Two Afghan women risked their safety, and gave Malpas consent to tell their stories of life under the Afghan justice system in the documentary entitled In-Justice. But just 24 hours before the film’s release, the EU blocked it, in what it said was an effort to protect the women’s identity.
The Evening Standard says officials wanted to keep the waters calm in their already fragile relationship with Afghanistan’s judiciary.
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After being raped and impregnated by her husband’s cousin, Gulnaz, 19, was jailed for adultery for 12 years with her baby girl, while Farida, 26, was also jailed for the same offence after escaping from her abusive husband.
It seems surprising that an international institution committed to women’s rights should take such a stance. But the EU insists it is only protecting these women who – ironically – have been all over the news for the past week.
Critics say the film should be shown to draw attention to a system that discriminates against women, and banning it only highlights the failure to improve the rights of Afghan women.
Gulnaz may be freed after only one and a half years because she has agreed to marry the rapist – a condition offered by the judge for an early release.
Britain’s Times newspaper reported that, during filming, Gulnaz openly resisted the idea of marrying her rapist but after more than 18 months behind bars with her child, she consented, though she remains in prison while her papers are being processed.
The Times quoted Gulnaz’s rapist as saying the EU had “done a good thing” by banning the film.
“I had no choice,” Gulnaz told the Times. “I did it for my daughter.”