Update: Listen to Reveal host Al Letson talk to Zohreh Soleimani about her experiences in making this film in our new podcast.
After the Taliban regime’s ouster in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, some conditions for women improved. But oppressive tribal traditions remain more powerful than laws.
Thousands of young Afghan women have been imprisoned for so-called moral crimes – including running away from unlawful forced marriages and domestic violence or simply falling in love and marrying against a father’s wishes.
This is the story of one of these women. When Soheila was 5 years old, she was given away in marriage to an old man in compensation for her older brother’s crime: stealing the man’s young third wife. When Soheila ran away from the abusive marriage, her father had her arrested and imprisoned.
Across the city, Soheila’s lover also is in prison, serving a six-year sentence. Unwilling to be free while Soheila is locked away, Niaz Mohammad says he tried to make peace with her father, pleading with him to release her from prison and allow them to live with their young son. When her father refused, Mohammad turned himself over to police and entered the men’s prison.
The Center for Investigative Reporting spent three years reporting this story and gaining exclusive access to Soheila, her family and the fearless women who offer sanctuary and protection to other women facing abuse, prison and even death for daring to seek freedom and happiness.
Soheila’s story reflects the reality for thousands of Afghan women bound by tribal traditions and the ongoing struggle for power in a country that has experienced more than 30 years of war.