Pakistan offers protection to elopers from Afghanistan
PESHAWAR (PAKISTAN) A PAKISTANI court on Monday ordered police to protect an Afghan couple who eloped and fear being murdered by the bride’s furious relatives.
Hewad, 22, and Mariyam Marjman fled Kabul last month to marry for love in the leafy town of Abbottabad in northwest Pakistan, where US troops found and killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Marjman, also 22, told AFP her parents had wanted her to wed the ageing husband of her sister, who had recently died, instead. She says that if taken back to Afghanistan she would probably be murdered for marrying a man of her own choice.
The high court in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar took up the case after being moved by reports of the couple’s plight.
“The couple should be provided proper accommodation in Peshawar and foolproof security because of threats to their lives,” said judge Dost Muhammad Khan.
The pair, whom Pakistani authorities had previously housed separately, were accompanied in court by an armed police escort, an AFP reporter said.
The judges called another hearing next week to check their orders had been implemented.
The young couple escaped their conservative families’ clutches with the help of a Pakistani friend — taking the dead sister’s two-year-old daughter with them — but say relatives of the bride have since travelled to Pakistan in a bid to force them back.
Hewad, who uses only one name, told AFP: “I have serious threats to my life from Mariyam’s relatives, from her parents and her brothers.
“I am sure they can harm me here and if we are sent back to Afghanistan, they will simply shoot us.” Despite progress in recent years and improved legal protection, women suffer chronic rights abuses in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Earlier this month a video emerged of the public execution of a woman accused of adultery in Afghanistan, who was shot dead as dozens of men cheered.
Activists fear that women’s rights in Afghanistan are under particular threat as NATO troops prepare to leave in 2014 and Kabul seeks peace with the Taliban, who brutally repressed women during their 1996-2001 regime.