by ROD NORDLAND
KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine years before an Afghan girl named Soheila was born, her half brother Aminullah eloped with a woman who had been betrothed to his cousin, an event that led to years of violent feuding between two sides of their family in Nuristan.
Soheila’s mother died while giving birth to her. Her father, Rahimullah, then bartered his daughter’s future for family peace, betrothing Soheila at the age of 5 to the aggrieved cousin, a man her father’s own age.
The practice is known as baad, in which young girls are traded between families to resolve disputes. Although illegal, baad is still widely practiced, especially in remote areas of Afghanistan. Once of legal age, 16, Soheila would become the fourth wife of an elderly man.
Fast-forward to late last month, when Soheila, who uses only one name and is now 24, sat in the offices of the advocacy group Women for Afghan Women and for the first time watched her own story unfold on screen.
Wide-eyed, she watched the documentary “To Kill a Sparrow,” a half-hour-long piece by the Iranian filmmaker Zohreh Soleimani that showed Soheila’s long struggle to escape the destiny her father had intended for her.
Much of the documentary, which was filmed over about a year and a half, took place while Soheila was in the women’s shelter run in Kabul by Women for Afghan Women, which is the largest private organization in Afghanistan operating shelters and other facilities for women in crisis. It is where she spent much of the past four years as the group’s lawyers worked to resolve her case.
The New York Times for more
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