An Afghan couple has been arrested after inviting over a religious cleric for dinner and then cutting off his nose and ears — retribution, they say, for attacking their daughter.
"I cut off his ears and nose," the father, Abdul Qahar, told Reuters from the police chief's office in the northern Baghlan province.
"I don't know if a cat ate his ears, but his nose went down the drain," he added, speaking in the Dari language.
The girl told her family that the cleric had sexually assaulted her four months ago, according to Khadija Yaqeen, provincial head of women’s affairs.
Rights activists have observed a rise in violent attacks against women, who have been fighting to gain ground since the collapse of Taliban government 2001. The Taliban banned girls from attending school from 1996 to 2001, and since then insurgents have regularly targeted U.S.-funded girls’ schools in bombing attacks, Reuters reports.
Police arrested the parents on Tuesday, the day after the father invited the mullah to dinner at his home and pulled out his knife. According to police spokesman Ahmad Jawid Basharat, Qahar had tied the cleric's hands and feet in order to exact his revenge.
The parents say they had to take matters into their own hands because religious, or sharia, law often presides over constitutional law in rural Afghanistan.
"If there was a functioning rule of law, then he would be punished even more severely," said the girl's mother, Sultana, wearing a traditional burqa.
Police are investigating the 32-year-old cleric, who denies assaulting the girl.
As the U.S. and NATO prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan after 12 years of war, concerns about women’s rights become paramount.
"There is a lot of work to do in Afghanistan to ensure not only women's human rights, but also their access to justice,” Cristina Finch, managing director of the women's human rights program at Amnesty International USA, told The Week. “We need to make sure women can report in a safe environment and those reports are taken seriously...There's a long way to go before that happens."