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An Afghan Boy’s Rape and Death Prompt a Rare Response: Arrests

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KABUL, Afghanistan — It began as a dispute between boys: Naseebullah Barakzai, 13, was irked when a neighbor boy stole fruit and ripped limbs from his household’s pomegranate tree, and he shoved the youthful boy to the bottom, kin say.

Just two days later, Naseebullah was useless, and his village, within the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, was in an uproar. His household and different residents accuse an influential police checkpoint commander of taking the opposite boy’s aspect and abducting and raping Naseebullah, fatally injuring him.

It is the type of sexual assault that has run rampant throughout the Afghan safety forces. And in different kinds, youngster abuse has change into ritualized: One follow, during which highly effective males molest younger boys and power them to decorate and dance in women’ clothes, is broadly referred to as bacha bazi, or boy play.

Poor households have suffered for years as commanders and their males have preyed on them, a part of a broader tradition of corruption within the safety forces that led to efforts to reform the navy and police. But officers have been reluctant to acknowledge, a lot much less confront, the endemic subject of sexual abuse of youngsters — together with bacha bazi and minors compelled into marriage — although these practices have been formally outlawed.

In the case of Naseebullah, although, public outrage seems to be forcing a uncommon reckoning.

Naseebullah’s household, backed by a throng of elders from the village of Karezak, marched into the places of work of Kandahar’s governor, Hayatullah Hayat, to demand justice and the arrest of the police commander, First Lt. Mullah Roozi Khan, final month. And it labored: The authorities shortly arrested Lieutenant Khan and 6 of his officers, who’re in jail whereas an official investigation is underway to find out whether or not to cost them.

Naseebullah’s mom and brother mentioned that Lieutenant Khan and his males kidnapped, beat and raped the sixth-grader, who was dumped the following day at a hospital. They mentioned hospital officers informed them that Naseebullah had suffered extreme inner accidents earlier than he died, on Sept. 18, and that the lads who dropped him off claimed that he had fallen from a roof.

But the physician who operated on the boy, talking on situation of anonymity, mentioned that he had noticed intensive inner accidents in keeping with compelled penetration.

The allegations in opposition to the commander check the jurisdiction of Afghanistan’s American-backed authorities, which holds restricted sway in provinces exterior the capital, Kabul. As Afghan and Taliban negotiators talk about a attainable peace deal, the militants are nonetheless conducting assaults nationwide, exposing the federal government’s incapacity to guard its residents in violently contested provinces like Kandahar.

Under these circumstances, the useless boy’s household and neighbors are demanding authorities motion in a district nominally below authorities management.

“I want President Ghani to give us justice — nothing else,” Naseebullah’s mom, Bibi Amina, 50, mentioned of President Ashraf Ghani. “This crime defamed the name of Islam.”

Naseebullah’s brother, Ehsanullah Barakzai, 26, mentioned the governor had assured the household that nobody, not even a robust police commander, was above the legislation. But he mentioned the responsible usually go unpunished if they’re wealthy or influential.

“We still don’t know whether this criminal will be punished or set free,” Ehsanullah mentioned of the jailed commander.

The lieutenant and his males couldn’t be reached for remark, and in current days have been transferred to a jail in Kabul because the investigation continued.

Wali Mohammad Askar, the Criminal Investigation director for Kandahar, mentioned his workplace would conduct an intensive investigation and publicly announce the outcomes. “We assure all the people of Kandahar, and especially the relatives of the victim, that no one who is guilty will be spared justice,” Mr. Askar mentioned.

But in related instances nationwide, authorities have promised to analyze, solely to quietly launch suspects after curiosity fades.

“When powerful people are involved, often we don’t hear about the investigation again after the first few days,” mentioned Shaharzad Akbar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Ms. Akbar mentioned households usually don’t report youngster intercourse crimes due to disgrace or worry of official retribution. But in Naseebullah’s case, the household requested the human rights group’s workplace in Kandahar to observe the case and seek the advice of with authorities to make sure transparency, she mentioned.

In Logar Province, south of Kabul final November, an area youngster advocacy group publicized statements from 165 schoolboys who mentioned that they had been raped by lecturers, principals or cops. Afghanistan’s nationwide intelligence company shortly detained the 2 leaders of the advocacy group and coerced them to publicly recant the allegations.

After the American Embassy in Kabul and human rights teams intervened, the 2 advocates have been launched; one has since fled Afghanistan. Twenty suspects have been arrested and charged with raping the boys, and trials have begun for 4 of them, Ms. Akbar mentioned.

Jamshid Rasuli, spokesman for Afghanistan’s legal professional normal, mentioned the workplace had performed “a comprehensive and extended investigation” in Logar and would announce the outcomes quickly.

In July, 4 Afghan safety power members, together with an organization commander, have been jailed after they have been accused of raping and beating a 13- and a 14-year outdated boy inside a battalion headquarters base in Takhar Province in northern Afghanistan. The 13-year-old’s cousin, Qurban Ali Hairat, mentioned he discovered the boys in a room on the battalion base, each injured so badly that they have been unable to stroll. He mentioned they informed him that they had been raped by troopers.

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Yazdani, commander of the 217th Pamir Corps in Takhar, mentioned navy prosecutors have been investigating the case whereas the troopers remained in custody,

In 2015, an investigation by The New York Times discovered widespread sexual assault of boys by Afghan safety power members, and that the American navy was reluctant to intervene. The article reported that an American captain was relieved of command and a sergeant was pressured to retire after they confronted and shoved an Afghan militia commander who had raped a boy.

The investigation prompted a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on the navy’s reluctance to confront bacha bazi, a follow centuries outdated.

Afghanistan made bacha bazi and related offenses violations of the nationwide felony code in 2017. The penalty for violating the code is up the three years in jail — three to 5 years if the dancing is “a public event.” But human rights advocates say the codes are hardly ever enforced.

In Kandahar, the spokesman for the governor promised that justice could be carried out for Naseebullah. “Nobody is above the law, and we are committed to following the rule of law and we will complete the investigation soon,” the spokesman, Baher Ahmadi, mentioned.

The useless boy’s mom was not satisfied.

“The government puts innocent people in prison, but the criminals and culprits remain free,” Ms. Amina mentioned.

Mohammad Nazem, a neighbor within the Dand district the place Naseebullah lived, mentioned a whole lot of individuals turned out for the boy’s funeral and railed in opposition to authorities officers. He mentioned a failure to punish these accountable would solely harden the hatred that many residents harbor towards the federal government.

“We cannot imagine a human being doing such a thing to a teenage boy,” Mr. Nazem mentioned. “We would prefer that he be shot and killed, not murdered in this cruel way.”

David Zucchino reported from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Kabul.

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