Hamid Karzai: "It's up to her to decide who to marry or who not to marry"
His intervention led to a rape victim who was jailed for adultery over the attack being freed
Karzai says her case appeared to be a "misjudgment"
Gulnaz, 21, is now staying at a women's shelter with her daughter, conceived in the attack
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that a rape victim freed from prison after he intervened on her behalf has the right to make her own choice about whether to marry her attacker.
In an exclusive interview from Kabul, Karzai told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the woman’s case appeared to be a “misjudgment” that had to be resolved.
The woman, identified only as Gulnaz for her own protection, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after she reported that her cousin’s husband had raped her.
But the 21-year-old was freed this week following the president’s intervention, and is now staying at a women’s shelter in Kabul, with the daughter she conceived in the attack and gave birth to in prison.
Her plight attracted international attention when it came out that she had agreed to marry her attacker to gain her freedom and legitimize her daughter.
Karzai said he had convened a judicial meeting when he came aware of her case.
“The issue was discussed in detail, and the right inquiries made. We, on advice from the chief justice and the minister of justice, decided that this was a case, perhaps, of misjudgment and that it has to be resolved, and resolved by giving her a pardon immediately. That’s what I did.”
Asked whether it was appropriate that Gulnaz should marry her attacker, as some in Afghanistan say, Karzai said it was her choice.
“It’s up to her to decide who to marry or who not to marry,” he said. “And Islam gives her that right.”
Looking to the future, Karzai said the West should have confidence in Afghanistan’s judicial processes after international forces withdraw.
“It’s a country that has been troubled a lot. But it is also an old country, with laws and a penal code and judicial history,” he said.
“I can assure you that, once the international forces are withdrawn and not as many as there are today, Afghanistan will neither go into a trouble within the country or strife or into miscarriage of justice. I can assure you of that.”
After the attack two years ago, Gulnaz hid what happened as long as she could because she was afraid of reprisals. But then she began showing signs of pregnancy and, aged only 19, was found guilty by the courts of sex outside of marriage – adultery – and sentenced to 12 years in jail.
A key problem is that Afghan law fails to clearly distinguish between rape and adultery, which is a crime under Sharia, or Islamic law.
And despite the pardon, Gulnaz’s future remains unclear in a conservative society where her ordeal is considered to have brought shame on her family.
She told CNN from prison last month that she was willing to marry her attacker in order to end her incarceration, though she did not want that option.
Karzai also discusses Afghanistan’s future relationship with the United States and his country’s efforts to deal with the Taliban in the exclusive interview, to be broadcast Sunday on Fareed Zakaria GPS.