Warning that these may be her last words, an Afghan woman accused a senior Taliban official of forcing her into marriage and repeatedly raping her in a video that surfaced on social media in recent days.
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 spokesperson 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 in the video, which surfaced on Tuesday.
Elaha’s situation since making the video public is not certain. Late Wednesday, the Twitter page of the Kabul branch of the Supreme Court said Elaha had been formally arrested and would soon be sentenced for defamation.
However, a new Twitter page for the Supreme Court established last month said in a post Thursday that the other was fake, referring to its posting of the arrest. The discrepancy could not immediately be resolved. Officials from the Supreme Court and the Interior Ministry did not reply to requests for comment on whether Elaha had been formally arrested or not.
Since the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, Afghan women 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 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 spokesperson post and it is not clear what his new position is.
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 in the video that Khosti had forced her into marriage six months ago, when he still held the spokesperson post. Khosti tried to marry her sister to another Taliban official, but her family successfully 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.
Khosti said he divorced her after finding she “has a problem in her faith” and he 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 activists.
Since seizing power, the Taliban have imposed increasing restrictions on women. They have prevented many women from working, barred teenage girls from school and required women in public to cover themselves completely except for their eyes. The world has refused to recognize the Taliban’s rule, demanding it respect human rights and show tolerance for other groups.
In a statement on Elaha's case, Human Rights Watch said Thursday that “it would be no surprise for a Taliban official to feel free to inflict forced marriage, rape, assault," given multiple reports of such cases. It also said the Taliban have “systematically dismantled structures to combat violence against women and girls,” including shelters, legal assistance programs and prosecution units and courts specialized in enforcing laws against violence against women.