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Mohammad Alam, brother of murdered Shakila, holds a newspaper showing her picture in Kabul, yesterday.
Bamiyan: Shakila was murdered, shot in the back 13 months ago in the house where she worked as a maid for a wealthy local leader in one of the most progressive provinces of Afghanistan.
Her murderer has never been arrested, and her family’s search for justice has laid bare the complex web of grinding poverty, attitudes towards women and a culture of immunity that plagues much of the country’s legal system.
As International Women’s Day was marked yesterday, campaigners say that progress in Afghanistan is slow even after billions of dollars of Western aid and some advances since the 2001 fall of the hardline Taliban regime.
The departure of the Nato coalition next year has also raised fears that the limited improvements for women could be erased as conservative groups vie to seize power in Kabul.
Shakila, whose was about 16, spent the last six months of her life working for a member of the provincial council in Bamiyan, the quiet Afghan town 180km (110 miles) west of Kabul.
Her family was poor and needed the money from her job, but her body was found in her employer’s home in January 2012.
“Investigators told us that she had been shot in the back,” her 18-year-old brother, Mohammad Alam Sadiqat, said. “And doctors said that she had been raped.”
In a country where an unmarried women’s virginity is sacrosanct, the shame of having a daughter raped adds to the family’s burden, but they dare not make an official accusation of sexual abuse.
Most Afghan female rape victims never publicly name their attacker, out of fear of being ostracised or even killed, campaigners say.
Shakila’s brother-in-law, who works as a guard in the same house, was imprisoned for six months in connection with her murder, then released.
Esmail Zaki, the coordinator of a local charity, then started to investigate.
“We found out that the attorney general and the judicial system had gone in the wrong direction. They had evidence that the guy (the brother-in-law) was not even there when it happened,” Zaki said.
Shakila’s murder was never brought to court in Bamiyan. It has since been referred to the attorney general’s office in Kabul, which could not be reached. The family owners of the home have denied having anything to do with murder, and the Bamiyan police have washed their hands of responsibility.
“We did all the research we had to do. We finished that case and then handed it to the court,” said Deputy Provincial Police Chief Mohammad Ali Lagzi.
One senior official in the local administration said on condition of anonymity that the family’s poverty meant the odds of getting justice were stacked against them.
“Her case has been taken to the AG’s office in Kabul but it seems not much has been done to give her justice,” he said.
“The murder happened in the home of a member of the provincial council,” he added. “They are powerful people.”
Last December, the United Nations said Afghanistan had made progress in protecting women against violence and welcomed an increase in reported cases. But in 16 of 34 provinces where the UN was able to gather details, just 21 percent of 470 reports of violence against women resulted in convictions.
But in 16 of 34 provinces where the UN was able to gather details, just 21 percent of 470 reports of violence against women resulted in convictions.