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Fearing persecution Afghan couple flee to Pakistan

July 22, 2012

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Afghan women clad in burqa walk up a hill at the old part of Kabul. Progress has been made on women's rights since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but many fear those gains are under threat as Nato troops leave and Kabul seeks peace with insurgents.— Reuters (File Photo)

PESHAWAR: An Afghan couple who fled the war-torn country to marry in Pakistan are being held in protective custody amid fears the bride's angry relatives will kill them, officials said on Sunday.

Hewad, 22, who is known by only one name, wed 18-year-old Mariyam Marjman in the town of Abbottabad, around 50 kilometres north of Islamabad, last month after escaping Kabul with the help of a Pakistani friend.

Marjman told officials a jirga or assembly of her relatives had travelled to Abbottabad with the aim of taking her back to Afghanistan, where she would probably be murdered for marrying a person of her own choice.

“Mariyam declared that Hewad is her husband and both of them were in love before they got married,” senior local administration official Imtiaz Shah said, adding that the bride's parents wanted her to marry her dead elder sister's husband.

He said that the couple had brought the two-year-old daughter of Marjman's dead sister with them to Pakistan.

Top local administration official Khan Omarzai told AFP that arrangements have been made to produce both Hewad and Marjman at the high court in Peshawar on Monday.

“The couple is being provided full protection as per court's order,” he added.

Marjman was moved to an orphanage with the two-year-old while Hewad was moved to a prison in the northwestern city of Mansehra with officials in Abbottabad saying “this has been done to provide them full protection”.

“We will accept and implement whatever is the court's decision tomorrow,” Shah said.

“If the court orders us to give custody of the couple to the jirga, we will do that and if the court decides to keep the custody of the couple, we will implement that verdict too.”

Progress has been made on women's rights since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but many fear those gains are under threat as Nato troops leave and Kabul seeks peace with insurgents.

Earlier this month a video emerged of the public execution of a woman accused of adultery in Afghanistan, who was gunned down as dozens of men cheered.