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Corporal punishment in AFGHANISTAN

With comments by C. Farrell

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Afghanistan - Judicial CP
Afghanistan - School CP

Afghanistan flag AFGHANISTAN: Judicial CP

In 2011 it was clarified that judicial corporal punishment was still lawful in Afghanistan.

 No information is to hand about CP in Afghanistan in the pre-Taliban era.

 During the Taliban's first period in power (1996-2001), floggings were ordered by Islamic (Sharia) courts, notably for adultery and often of women. Amnesty International (see external links below) mentions over a dozen such sentences in 2000 and at least 30 in 2001. These figures seem very low, and possibly refer only to public floggings to which local publicity was given. Other whippings were carried out in prison and probably went unreported ("Afghan drug sellers punished with humiliation", USA Today, 18 October 2001).

 Public floggings were also administered to corrupt government officials, as reported in this Oct 1998 news item.

 Eyewitness accounts are rare, and it is unclear whether there was any consistency about the modus operandi. This April 1999 news item, about the public flogging of a young woman for adultery, and of her mother for not informing the authorities, gives a bit of (second-hand) detail. It also describes another flogging on the same day, of nine men convicted of gambling.

 The instrument of choice appears to have been a leather strap or paddle known as a dura. According to one report, this was five inches wide ("In Afghanistan, Inept Bureaucracy Gives Way to Chaotic Kleptocracy", Los Angeles Times, 26 November 2001). The same report claims that smoking cannabis was one of the offences for which floggings were imposed.

 At least some Taliban floggings were apparently intended only to be humiliating rather than painful, as described in this April 1997 news report of a case in which give men "received a symbolic lashing on their backs and legs" wearing three layers of clothing. In this case the leather whip is described as being 60cm long and 6cm wide.

 In another report, the leather strap was said to be reinforced with steel, but "administered lightly" ("Muslims condemn Taliban's swift and brutal word of God", The Daily Telegraph, London, 24 May 1998).

 Floggings were also sometimes carried out on the spot by the "religious police", apparently without any court hearing. There is a short video clip of a woman being flogged in a Kabul street in 2001 for removing her burqa in public.

 The Taliban was removed from central power at the end of 2001, but it continued to control some areas, and there was still no properly functioning national judicial system. In rural areas, local tribal courts were left to their own devices and some have imposed floggings, according to US State Department reports. It was suggested at the time that these were illicit, but more recent reports say that flogging remained legal under the new Afghan constitution, though allegedly rare.

 An example is the case reported in this May 2010 news item (with video clip) where two teenage girls were flogged in a remote area for trying to escape forced marriages. This was said to be carried out by mullahs and a local warlord, not the Taliban.

 As of mid-2021 the Taliban is reportedly once again ruling the whole country. It remains to be seen whether this will materially change the situation on the ground as regards corporal punishment.

Coutroom flogging

 Meanwhile, this Feb 2006 news item noted that "a large leather paddle" for administering CP still existed at the Supreme Court offices in Kabul.

This June 2011 report by the BBC states that a man had recently been publicly whipped by a judge in a courtroom in Jalalabad (pictured right) for drinking alcohol, and that this was an official and lawful punishment under Islamic law.

 In Sep 2015 film emerged of a public whipping with leather strap of a man and a woman for adultery -- see this news item with video clip. They were sentenced to 100 lashes by a local court in Ghor Province, a sentence described by Amnesty International as illegal.

EXTERNAL LINKS: (these will open in a new window) new window

This anti-CP website says, contrary to what was thought before, that (as at Jan 2020) JCP in Afghanistan is lawful under Shariah law for certain offences. Young people are not exempt, once they have reached puberty.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 1997
This, the first extant USSD report to mention JCP in Afghanistan, states that a UNICEF employee was given 10 lashes in front of a crowd, and that the Taliban gave a driver 25 lashes on the spot for allowing a woman to ride in the front seat of his vehicle.

Amnesty International Report 1998
Confirms that floggings were being imposed in 1997 and gives one or two examples.

April 1998: Flagrant Abuse of the Right to Life and Dignity
More information from Amnesty about Taliban floggings; one was "applied lightly with a leather strap".

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 1998
Reports that adulterers were publicly whipped with 100 lashes and cites a couple of cases. (The 1999, 2000 and 2001 reports add nothing new.)

Amnesty International Report 1999
Mentions the case of a woman who was given 100 lashes before a crowd of 30,000 spectators.

Amnesty International Report 2001
Amnesty International Report 2002
Shari'a courts ordered at least a dozen floggings during 2000, and at least 30 during 2001, including 20 women.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2002
There was no functioning national judicial system; local courts "relied on some interpretation of Islamic law and traditional tribal codes of justice". The report doesn't specifically mention JCP.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2003
In rural areas, the administration of justice was left to local tribal councils, some of which imposed floggings. The implication seems to be that there was no JCP by the official courts in the cities, though this is not made explicit. (The 2004 and 2005 USSD reports add nothing new.)

"The Whole Justice System of Afghanistan is Rotten"
The US Christian Science Monitor (February 2006) gives more general background on the situation then. No specific mention of CP.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2006
Contrary to previous years, there were no confirmed reports of floggings. (The report for 2007 repeats the same information.)

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2008
This report makes no specific mention of CP, but says that in Taliban-controlled areas a "parallel judicial system" handed out "beatings".

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2009
Adultery is punishable with 100 lashes of the whip, but there were no reports of such cases during the year under review. (The reports for 2010 and 2011 add nothing new.)

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2012
Refers to "parallel judicial systems" enforced by the Taliban in some areas, including Sharia public floggings for sexual offences. (The reports for 2013 through 2018 add nothing new.)

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2019
Sharia courts run by the Taliban continued to operate in some areas. There were floggings for same-sex sexual conduct. (The 2020 report adds nothing of significance.)

Afghanistan flag AFGHANISTAN: School CP

EXTERNAL LINKS: (these will open in a new window) new window

School Beatings Widespread
News item from July 2004 suggesting that "corporal punishment" was being used routinely in schools under the post-Taliban regime. However, as so often in that region of the world, the actual cases quoted (students being punched and kicked, for instance) have nothing to do with proper CP. There are even references to students requiring hospital treatment. That is not corporal punishment, it is simple brutality. Journalists and activists need to stop misusing the language in this manner.

The anti-CP agitators report that corporal punishment in schools is expressly prohibited under an Education Act passed in 2008. Despite this, teachers continue to strike students.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2006
Corporal punishment in schools was "not uncommon" despite being against the law, according to this. (The reports for more recent years repeat the same information.)

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 2020
"Although it is against the law, corporal punishment in schools, rehabilitation centers, and other public institutions remained common."

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