Video: Afghan woman cries for help after torture, forced marriage to Taliban official
A young woman cries and pleads for her life. In a 19-minute video published by Afghan media on August 30, a former medical student named Elaha showed images she says came from being beaten, raped and tortured by Saeed Khosty, a former Taliban official, during the past six months. She says Khosty threatened her family and forced her to marry him.
The video, whose authenticity was confirmed to the FRANCE 24 Observers by two people who have been in contact with the young woman, sheds light on the abuses of power and violence towards women in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
“After publishing this video, it’s possible that no one will see me again, I might die,” Elaha says in the video, which she recorded during several sessions while in captivity. She passed the recordings, along with accompanying photos and videos showing her with Khosty, to activists and journalists who published them online. Activists say she is now in safety in an undisclosed location.
Khosty, a former spokesman for the Taliban interior ministry, acknowledged on Twitter on August 31 that he had married Elaha. He said they had married at her request, after she approached him. He denied beating her. “She had some problems concerning her beliefs and faith. I tried to set her straight using discussion and counsel, but it did not work,” he wrote. He said he had divorced Elaha and accused her of committing blasphemy, an offense punishable by execution in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. He made no reference to Elaha’s video or accusations of rape in his response.
While some media reported on August 31 that the young woman had been arrested, activists said this was not the case and she was still in a safe location communicating with friends and family. Taliban officials told local Afghan media that a tweet supposedly announcing her arrest was inaccurate.
'It’s better to die once than to die a thousand times'
In the video, which the young woman recorded while still in captivity, she describes her situation in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two major languages. At 13:31 in the video, she shows the scars and injuries she says she received from repeated beatings by Khosty. She opens the video by giving her name, and that of her tormentor.
My name is Elaha. I was a medical student at Kabul University and my father was a general in the Afghan Army … Saeed Khosty, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, “married” me by force in an intelligence service office during the month of Dalv [Editors’ note: the Persian month which runs from Jan. 20 to Feb. 18]. … He forced me to “marry” him in the Intelligence office.
She says in the video that Khosty first saw her after she was arrested in Kabul in February.
I was stopped at a Taliban checkpoint and arrested because I had some photos of men from the Afghan army on my phone.… The Taliban detained me in the Sector 11 police office. Saeed Khosty was there filming videos of the arrested people. He saw me. He accused me of participating in anti-Taliban protests, but it was a lie. Then he asked for my address.… He told me: “You think you are a doctor, that you are somebody. You’re an egoist. In the end you are just a woman, and women are inferior to men”....
They next took me somewhere else, with a sign that said “Command Section 08, Office 104”.… He beat me and raped me and recorded videos of it.…Then he forced me to record a video saying that I would marry him freely.…But I was a prisoner.
The next day some people came and gave me a piece of paper, saying “This is your confession, sign it”.…They told me: “You have insulted the Islamic State [the Taliban government]. Insulting the Islamic State is like insulting Allah and we could stone you.” I said, no, I had done nothing. But they beat me….
The next day they brought a mullah into the intelligence office and they forced me to marry him. They forced me to kiss his feet. In the same office they forced me to say in a video that I married him freely.
Videos show Taliban official at her family home
Activists say Elaha was released from the detention center and allowed to return to her family home. Videos filmed apparently by her family show that Khosty made at least two visits to the home.
In the video plea published Aug. 30, Elaha said:
“He threatened me and my family. He wanted to force my sister to marry an elderly Taliban member. My family had to escape from Afghanistan to save my sister.”
In this video published on Afghan social media Aug. 30, 2022, Elaha can be heard telling Saeed Khosty: “Stop talking! Get out of this house!”. Khosty asks: “Why did you bring a shovel? These are my soldiers.” Elaha responds: “Are you threatening me with your soldiers? Stop talking, get out of this house!”
In this video, also published on Afghan social media Aug. 30, 2022, Elaha is seen trying to push former Taliban official Saeed Khosty out of her family home with a shovel. Elaha told activists the incident occurred during the Persian month of Hout [Feb.19 to March 20], and that Khosty had arrived with Taliban soldiers and tried to enter the home by force.
“Every night he beats me”
FRANCE 24 verified Elaha’s account with two sources: Mukhtar Wafaei, an Afghan journalist who spoke to her directly on August 30, and Huda Khamoush, a well-known Afghan women’s rights activist. They said that at some point she was taken to live with Khosty. The young woman described the conditions in her video message.
I had only a basic phone so I could not contact anyone except him. He forced the university to dismiss me…. I tried to escape multiple times, but I was unsuccessful….
Every night he beats me. Sometimes he wakes up and wants to strangle me…. He beats me every day, he’s savage. He also took many nude videos of me and threatened to publish them if I ran away again…
At one point, her injuries were so bad that she was taken to hospital. A medical worker sent a short video of her to Khamoush, who posted it on Twitter saying that Khosty had beaten the young woman and forced her to marry him. “I published the video, but unfortunately it didn't get much attention at the time,” she told the France 24 Observers.
الهه ۲۴ ساله محصل دانشکده طبی کابل میباشد و در هفته های اخیر قاری سعید خوستی بزور و اجبار وی را به نکاح خویش در آورده بود.— Hoda khamosh _هداخموش (@HodaKhamosh) February 27, 2022
امروز اورا چنان لت کوب کرده که در شفا خانه لیسه مریم بخش عاجل انتقال داده شده
نوت: تصاویر را یکی از شاهدان قضیه برایمان فرستاده است pic.twitter.com/6VQ0eEPt0s
“I don’t know what will happen when I publish this video”
Elaha said she recorded her video message from an apartment near the Foreign Ministry in Kabul. “She had no internet or phone to reach the outside world, but finally, a few days ago, she was able to get her hands on a phone connected to the internet”, Khamoush told FRANCE 24. “She recorded a video and sent it out to be published.”
I don’t know what will happen when I publish this video but I am pleading for someone to help me, to save my life. I’m pregnant…
There's an intelligence office next to our house. There are always patrols, and no one can come in this street. Help me please!...
Maybe they will kill me, but I’d rather die once than thousands of times…No one dares to help me, they say the Taliban are in power and they’re afraid they could do the same thing to their daughters too. They say they are in power, you have to endure.