A 14-year-old child bride was reportedly tortured and burned to death by her in-laws in Afghanistan. The teen was pregnant at the time of her death.
Zahra Azam, who lived in the central Ghor province of Aghanistan, was allegedly tortured and set on fire by her husband's family in retaliation for her father, 45-year-old Mohammad Azam, eloping with their young cousin, the Daily Mail reported.
Zahra's in-laws had reportedly promised to let Mohammad marry their cousin in exchange for settling a debt they owed him for construction work. However, they later reneged on the deal and decided to sell the cousin to another man for more money.
When Mohammad ran away with the young woman, her enraged family reportedly took it out on his daughter.
Zahra was set on fire sometime in the week of July 12 and died of severe burns in Isteqlal Hospital in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, on July 16, according to TOLO News.
"A team of doctors worked on this patient, but unfortunately failed to save her," Mohammed Sabir, head of the hospital, said, according to TOLO News. Doctors at the hospital said that the teen's burn wounds were bone-deep.
Police in Ghor said they have launched an investigation into the murder and are currently trying to locate Zahra's husband, who disappeared after the burning.
"Our investigative team has been sent to the area and has started a probe into the incident," said Zaman Azimi, acting police chief of Ghor. "Zahra's father-in-law has been brought before the court."
Zahra's father said that his daughter had been a frequent victim of domestic violence ever since he gave her away in marriage to a member of his new wife's family.
The practice of giving women and girls to other families as brides in order to settle disputes or debts is called bad dadan, or baad, and is illegal in Afghanistan. Mohammad himself could face prosecution for engaging in the act.
Zahra's stepmother, Taza Gul, said she had also been subjected to abuse by her own family and married Mohammad in order to escape the violence at home.
"No one paid attention to Zahra, even when she was stabbed, beaten and harassed," she said, according to TOLO News. "We lost her."
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has condemned the teen's brutal murder and called on Afghan authorities to investigate the incident thoroughly.
"We urge the government to bring the perpetrators of this act to court and ensure justice for the victim," said AIHRC chairperson Sima Samar.
About 50 people, including Mohammad, members of his family, and women's rights activists, gathered in Kabul on July 18 to call for justice in Zahra's death, the Daily Mail reported.
Women's rights activist Veeda Saghari, who attended the rally, said that Afghan courts frequently fail to address violence against women.
"That is why all kinds of violence against women such as acid throwing, beating, stoning, informal community tribunal verdicts, burning, forced divorces, forced marriages, forced pregnancies, forced abortions have reached a peak," she said, according to the Daily Mail.