A teenage Afghan rape victim who secured a rare conviction of her attacker has said she was assaulted this month for a second time, by a group of government employees tasked with protecting her.
The 15-year-old schoolgirl, from Daikundi province in Afghanistan's freezing, poor central highlands, was first raped four months ago while she was on her way to school, said Nowruz Ali Ataee, head of the provincial criminal investigation department.
In an unusual move for a young girl in conservative rural Afghanistan, where a rape is often considered to bring shame on an entire family, she reported the attack. Equally unusually, for a country that passed a law banning violence against women four years ago but has been slow to implement it, police found and arrested her rapist. He was recently jailed for 16 years and an accomplice was given a five-year sentence.
But the girl had to travel to the provincial capital for the case, and was temporarily living in an "education reform" centre that Daikundi officials said shelters women and children with no family.
After four months, and with her attackers in prison, judges last week ordered that the victim should be sent to a shelter or back to her family, Ataee said.
Her home was not really an option, however. She comes from a remote district, where the roads are now blocked by heavy snows, and it was not even clear if her family wanted her back. The girl's father had died when she was young, and her mother remarried, to a man who one government source said did not treat his stepdaughter well, forcing her to spend long hours herding sheep.
And in Daikundi town there were no suitable shelters, said Ataee, so she was sent to spend the night in the provincial women's affairs department. "The next morning she made an accusation. When the acting chairman of the women's department went to her office and asked her if it was OK, she said some employees and one security guard raped her," Qurban Ali Uruzgani, governor of Daikundi province, told the Guardian.
The victim was not sure how many men had raped her, one source said, because she had lost consciousness at the start of her ordeal, but several men have already been detained.
"We arrested four employees and one security guard of the building and put them in jail," Uruzgani said. The acting chairman of the women's department was briefly held but then released, he added.
After details of the case leaked to the Afghan media, the president, Hamid Karzai, sent a delegation to investigate, something he has done before in cases of extreme violence against women, contested civilian casualties or other cases that catch public attention.
The team, which included representatives from the ministry of women's affairs and the attorney general's office, has now returned to Kabul and is likely to report back within weeks. But regardless of the outcome, the case has already raised fears that a trend of rising violence against women, recorded last year, is continuing into 2013.