A photograph of an Afghan woman whose nose was sliced off by her husband has sparked widespread revulsion across the country, with activists demanding strict punishment.
Reza Gul, 20, was taken to hospital after the attack, which took place in the Ghormach district of the north-western province of Faryab on Sunday. Her husband is said to have fled to a Taliban-controlled area.
The man, identified as Mohammad Khan, is said to have cut off Gul’s nose with a pocket knife, according to a spokesman for the governor of Faryab.
The incident highlights the endemic violence against women in Afghan society, despite reforms brought in since the Taliban’s Islamist regime was ousted in a 2001 US-led invasion.
“Such a brutal and barbaric act should be strongly condemned,” said Alema, a Kabul-based women’s rights activist, who goes by one name. “Such incidents would not happen if the judicial system severely punished attacks on women,” she told AFP.
A photograph of the disfigured woman was widely shared on social media, prompting calls for tough action against the husband. The governor’s spokesman said Gul would need reconstructive surgery, which was not possible at the local government-run hospital.
It was not immediately clear what prompted Khan to attack Gul, whom he married five years ago as a teenager, and who is the mother of a one-year-old child. Khan, who is unemployed, is believed to have recently returned from neighbouring Iran and may have joined the after fleeing in the wake of the attack.
The government has vowed to protect women’s rights but this has not prevented violent attacks.
“Horrifying cases like this one happen all too often in ,” 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 in central Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a copy of the Qur’an.
The mob killing triggered angry nationwide protests and drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women. In 2010, Time magazine put on its cover a photograph of 18-year-old Aisha Mohammadzai, whose nose was cut off by an abusive husband. The cover provoked a worldwide outpouring of sympathy for Aisha, who was taken to the US where she was given a prosthetic nose.