Woman who accused Taliban official of rape is arrested, will be sentenced

The Taliban announced that it has arrested and will soon sentence an Afghan woman who appeared in a video on social media earlier this week accusing a senior Taliban official of forcing her into marriage and raping her repeatedly.

In the video, the woman, who identified herself only by her first name, Elaha, wept as she described being beaten and raped by former Taliban Interior Ministry spokesman Saeed Khosti. She said she was speaking from an apartment in Kabul where the Taliban had confined her after she tried to escape the country, and she pleaded for rescue.

“These may be my last words. He will kill me, but it is better to die once than to die every time,” she said.

Late Wednesday, a day after the video surfaced, the Taliban-run Supreme Court said in a tweet that Elaha had been arrested for defamation on orders of Chief Justice Abdul Hakeem Haqqani. Without mentioning any trial taking place, the tweet said the woman would “soon be sentenced according to Sharia law.”

“No one is allowed to harm the name of Mujahideen or defame the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the 20-years of holy jihad,” it said, referring to the Taliban and its war against U.S.-led troops and the U.S.-allied government, which the hard-line insurgents toppled a year ago.

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Since the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, Afghan women’s activists, as well as Amnesty International, have reported an increase in forced marriages of women — including cases where Taliban officials coerced women into marriage by intimidating them or their families.

In the video, Elaha identified herself as a medical student at Kabul University and the daughter of an intelligence service general under the former government. She said Khosti had forced her into marriage six months ago, when he still held the spokesman’s post. Khosti tried to marry her sister to another Taliban official, but her family fled, she said.

“Saeed Khosti beat me a lot. Every night he raped me,” she said, breaking into tears.

She said she tried to escape to neighboring Pakistan, but the Taliban arrested her at the border crossing and brought her back to Kabul and confined her to an apartment there. After they brought her back, she heard a Taliban member telling Khosti that she had lived under the former government for 20 years and should be stoned to death as an infidel, she said.

In tweets Wednesday, Khosti confirmed that he had married Elaha, but he denied mistreating her. “I assure you that I have not done anything illegal,” he wrote.

In recent months, Khosti was transferred out of his spokesman post, and it is not clear what his new position is.

Khosti said he divorced Elaha after finding she “has a problem in her faith” and accused her of insulting Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

Elaha’s video was widely shared on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp groups, sparking a wave of calls for help and denunciations of the Taliban from women’s-rights activists.

Since seizing power, the Taliban has imposed increasing restrictions on women. It has prevented many women from working, barred teenage girls from school and required women in public to cover themselves completely except for their eyes.

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