Afghanistan man cuts off wife's nose, sparking online anger

Reza Gul and her baby at a hospital in the northern province of Faryab on Jan 19, 2016.
Reza Gul and her baby at a hospital in the northern province of Faryab on Jan 19, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - A photograph of an Afghan woman whose nose was sliced off by her husband in a fit of rage has sparked revulsion across the country, with activists demanding punishment for the “barbaric act”.

Reza Gul, 20, was rushed to hospital after she was attacked with a pocket knife on Sunday by her husband who is said to be on the run.

“My husband (Mohammad Khan) tied up my hands and cut off my nose,” Gul told AFP in a frail voice from her hospital bed, with a white bandage on her face.

“He tortured me a lot,” she added, with her one-year-old baby wailing by her side.

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 following the attack in Ghormach district in the northwestern province of Faryab.

Local officials said Gul would need reconstructive surgery, which was not possible in the local government hospital.

Gul, who was married off five years ago as a teenager, said she suffered regular physical abuse from her husband, forcing her to flee to her parents’ home in a Taleban-controlled area.

While there, she said, the insurgents mediated in her case, making her husband, an unemployed man, to swear by the Koran that he would not hurt her again.

But soon after she returned to him, he sliced off her nose.

“Gul’s village is under Taleban control... but the police are trying to chase her husband,” Faryab police chief Sayed Aqa Andarabi told AFP.

The Afghan 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.