At a women’s shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan, is Gul Meena, a 17-year-old girl from Pakistan who shouldn’t be alive. This Pakistani girl’s life of misery and suffering began at the tender age of 12, when instead of going to school she was married to a man old enough to be her grandfather. She says: “My family married me off when I was 12. My husband was 60. Every day he would beat me. I would cry and beg him stop. But he just kept on beating me.”
CNN When Gul told her family what was happening, they responded in a way that shocked her. “My family would hit me when I complained. They told me you belong in your husband’s house — that is your life.”
After five years of abuse, Gul Meena met a young Afghan man and finally gathered the courage to leave her husband in Pakistan. In November 2012 she packed up some belongings and they made their way across the border into Afghanistan to the city of Jalalabad.
Days later her older brother tracked them down. Armed with an ax, he hacked to death Gul Meena’s friend, and then struck his own sister 15 times — cutting open her face, head and parts of her body. Assuming she was dead, her brother escaped back to Pakistan. Authorities are yet to catch him, but his family denies that he tried to kill Gul.
Hearing the commotion, a passer-by discovered Gul Meena lying in a pool of blood in her bed, and rushed her to the Emergency Department of Nangarhar Regional Medical Centre. With part of her brain hanging out of her skull, neurosurgeon Zamiruddin Khalid held out little hope that the girl on his operating table would survive.
She did, but Gul’s troubles were far from over. While she’d received life-saving treatment from the doctors and staff at the hospital, she had no one to care for her on the outside. Gul had been disowned by her family and despite the government and authorities knowing that she was alive and receiving care at the hospital, they wanted nothing to do with her due to the stigma and circumstances surrounding her attack.
Gul Meena is one of thousands of Muslim women living in shelters across Afghanistan — many of them victims of attempted honor killings. Tragically this practice still exists in a number of Islamic cultures.