KUNDUZ -- A village's sense of security was shattered earlier this month when six men belonging to the Taliban entered a family's home in the middle of the night and gang raped two teenage girls.
The men entered the family's house in Yousuf Mirzayee village, Faryab Province, at midnight on May 6. They beat the girls' mother and father and then gang raped the two sisters, aged 16 and 17, according to the family.
After the attack, the girls were hospitalised in Maimana, the provincial capital. They are now staying with relatives there.
The girls' mother, Mama Khal, recounted the horror of that night.
"It was midnight when I heard the shouts of my daughters," she told reporters in Faryab on May 15 with tears in her eyes. "When I got up, I saw that the Taliban had taken one of my daughters to a room [in the house] and the other to their guesthouse [in the village]."
"Four men raped one of my daughters, and two others raped my other daughter, but my third daughter, Farishta, who's 14, escaped by jumping over the wall to our neighbour's house," she said.
"They [the Taliban] ... dragged me on the floor to another room. They beat my husband and tied him with a rope."
"This village is under Taliban control ... we didn't know that they would attack our daughters' dignity like wild animals," she said.
The girls' father, Igan Birdi, 68, identified two of the attackers as former neighbours who are originally from Yousuf Mirzayee village, Qaramaqol District.
They headed the group of six, he said, adding that they returned to the Taliban after raping his daughters.
Birdi said he tried to rescue his daughters and pleaded with the Taliban.
"I told them that 'you also have dignity like me,'" he said. "'You must fear God. Don't commit this heinous act in this holy month of Ramadan.' But my daughters fell victim to their brutality."
"I curse the Taliban," he said. "They don't know anything about the Koran and hadith, and they try to implement their evil goals."
Justice for the victims
The girls, who also say they recognised two of their attackers, have bitter memories of the incident.
"We were sleeping at night, and we suddenly saw armed men enter our home," said Zakia, 17. "We saw they were the Taliban with their faces covered. After that, I didn't expect the sort of incident that occurred to me."
"The Taliban took me to their guesthouse, and a number of them raped me," she said, sobbing as she recalled that brutal night.
"I recognised them that they were those Taliban who were once our neighbours," said Nargis, 16.
"I can tell people clearly that they are not taliban, but they are rapists and criminals," she said, using the term for religious students that became the Taliban's name.
The sisters called on human rights and women's rights organisations to spread their story and to launch a campaign to punish the perpetrators.
Any action that violates human rights is considered a crime, said Sayed Mohammad Sami, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission director for Balkh Province.
"This brutal action, whoever perpetrated it, breaches the law and Sharia," he said.
The incident took place in an area controlled by the Taliban, confirmed Col. Ebadullah Zakizada, a police officer in Andkhoy District, Faryab Province.
Security forces will clear the area from the Taliban in the near future, he said.
"It really is the worst form of brutality against the family," Zakizada said. "We are determined to seek justice for this family."
"If the Taliban are really Muslims, why do they perpetrate these crimes?" he said. "They have tainted the religion of Islam as they continue to commit illegitimate acts."