New Delhi: The Taliban is kidnapping and forcibly marrying off teenage girls and young women to its fighters as it recaptures huge areas of Afghanistan.
The Mail newspaper on Sunday reported that whenever the extremists capture a new town or district, they issue orders through the speakers of local mosques for the names of wives and widows of all local government and police personnel to be handed over.
The group has rounded up hundreds of young women to be married off to their militants as a “war booty”, local residents and officials told the newspaper.
Families fearing the Taliban’s advance have been sending women and girls to safer areas, including the Afghan capital Kabul, to prevent them being taken away.
There have been local reports of women being forcibly married off in at least two northern Afghan regions called Takhar and Badakhshan, while a similar attempt was made in the province of Bamyan, where the insurgent group was driven out by Afghan security forces after four days of fierce fighting.
The fundamentalist organisation has been closing down girls’ schools in towns it takes over. Women are ordered that they can only leave their homes if they wear a burqa, and are chaperoned by a male adult, the report said.
Witnesses told of the group’s sexual slavery after it took control of the remote district of Saighan, in the central highlands of Bamyan province.
According to local residents, Taliban fighters demanded to know the names and ages of girls and women they said would be rounded up to be married to their militants.
The militants even beat some men who resisted, and demanded residents open their wardrobes so they could work out the ages of women by looking at the clothes inside.
The group also demanded to know the names and ages of widows of men who died fighting the Taliban, as well as those of the wives of any serving government or security personnel.
Terrified villagers sent their wives and daughters out of the area. Some fled in hired cars, others using goods carts, while some walked, the report said.
Baes Sakhizada, 28, a maths teacher in Saighan, sent his wife, Basira, 30, sister, Nafisa, 27, and cousin, Tamanna, 19, out of Saighan by car.
In full burkqa, the women were driven 150 miles away, sometimes going through Taliban checkpoints, but managed to escape.
Sakhizada said: “Everyone got their women out of Saighan, especially young girls. They were the first to be evacuated.”
Nafisa said she, Basira and Tamanna first stayed in a nearby village overnight, then took a car to a neighbouring province to escape. She described huge traffic jams as thousands fled advancing Taliban troops.
The three women returned to their homes after local militia forces managed to drive the Taliban out after four days of fighting. They live in fear knowing the group will soon return.
Mohammad Tahir Zuhair, the provincial governor of Bamyan, said the plan to abduct and marry women was a “dangerous and cruel revenge on the wives and widows of the security forces who have fought” the Taliban.
Omar Sadr, a professor at the American University of Afghanistan, said: “Once jihadis capture territory, whatever property there is, their ideology allows them to claim it. This includes women – they don’t even have to marry them. It is a form of sex slavery.”
General Nick Carter, head of the British Armed Forces, warned that “grisly images of war crimes being committed against Afghan special forces, government buildings being wilfully destroyed, civilians being brutalised and women forced into marriages undermine any claim the Taliban might have to political, moral or ethical legitimacy.”