A photograph of an Afghan woman whose nose was sliced off by her husband in a fit of rage has sparked widespread outrage, with activists demanding punishment for the “barbaric act”.
Reza Gul, 20, was admitted to a hospital after the attack in Ghormach district in the northwestern province of Faryab on Sunday. Her husband is said to have fled to a Taliban-controlled area.
“Mohammad Khan (the husband) cut off Reza Gul’s nose with a pocket knife,” Faryab governor’s spokesperson Ahmad Javed Bedar told AFP.
The incident highlights the endemic violence against women in Afghan society, despite reforms since the hardline Taliban Islamist regime was ousted in a 2001 US-led invasion.
“Such a brutal and barbaric act should be strongly condemned,” Kabul-based women’s rights activist Alema told AFP.
“Such incidents would not happen if the government judicial system severely punished attacks on women,” added Alema, who goes by one name.
The disfigured woman’s photograph was widely shared on social media, prompting calls for tough action against the husband.
Bedar said Gul would need reconstructive surgery, which was not possible in the local government hospital.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the husband to attack Gul, the mother of a one-year-old child who was married off five years ago as a teenager.
Bedar said Khan, an unemployed man, had recently returned from neighbouring Iran and may have joined the Taliban after fleeing home following the attack.
The government has vowed to protect women’s rights but that has not prevented violent attacks.
“Horrifying cases like this one happen all too often in Afghanistan,” Heather Barr, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told AFP.
“The level of impunity for violence against women encourages some men to continue to feel that women are their property and violence is their right.”
In November a young woman was stoned to death after being accused of adultery in the central province of Ghor. And last March a woman named Farkhunda was savagely beaten and set ablaze in central Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a Koran.
The mob killing triggered angry nationwide protests and drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women. In 2010, Time magazine put the photograph of a mutilated 18-year-old, Bibi Aisha, on its cover. Her nose was cut off by an abusive husband.
The cover provoked a worldwide outpouring of sympathy for Aisha, who was taken to the United States where she was given a prosthetic nose.