60-Year-Old Afghan Cleric Defends Marriage With 6-Year-Old

The draconian practice of child marriages is not just alive and well in Afghanistan but also on the increase in the war-torn country.

For over a decade, during the course of the war in Afghanistan, the country’s struggle with terrorism as well as its domestic issues remained under international scrutiny.

However, as soon as the United States announced the withdrawal of its troops in 2014, coinciding with the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and subsequent refugee crisis, Afghanistan more or less disappeared from the mainstream news radar.

As a result, much of the world’s attention remained focused on the influx of asylum-seekers in Europe, human rights violations continued and, in some cases, increased in Afghanistan.

Case in point: Child marriages.

Just this week, Mohammad Karim, a 60-year-old cleric from the Ghor province, was arrested for marrying a 6-year-old girl who, according to him, was “offered” to him by her parents.

Karim, according to the reports, wasn't the least bit ashamed about his actions. In fact, he referred to his child bride as a “religious offering.”

But according to officials investigating the incident, the girl’s parents claim she was abducted from western Herat province, which borders Iran.

"This girl does not speak, but repeats only one thing: 'I am afraid of this man,'" Masoom Anwari, head of the Provincial Department of Women's Affairs, stated.

The girl, who is reportedly in shock, is presently staying at a woman's shelter in Ghor and is expected to be collected by her parents. Dr. Nashafarin Shihab, who conducted a medical examination of the girl, confirmed she had endured “no physical or psychological harm."

"Karim has been jailed and our investigation is ongoing," government spokesman Abdul Hai Khatibi said.

The arrest comes just days after a 14-year-old pregnant girl was burned to death in Ghor in a purported an act of revenge after the girl’s father eloped with one of her husband’s cousins.

Despite child marriage being illegal in Afghanistan, where the legal age for women to get married is 16,  the draconian practice in not only alive and well there but also on the rise.

"In some regions because of insecurity and poverty the families marry off their daughters at a very early age to get rid of them," according to Sima Samar, chief of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The news of children’s rights violations occurring in Afghanistan may not be as newsworthy for media organizations to report on. But that certainly doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.

It’s tragic how the Afghan government as well as the international community has turned a blind eye toward child marriage, which, by the way, is just one of the many human rights abuses currently being committed in the war-torn country.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters

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