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05/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Taliban Execute Eloping Afghan Couple: Governor

A young Afghani couple accused of trying to elope was publicly executed by the Taliban Monday, according to a provincial governor, Ghulam Dastageer Azad, who is criticizing the heinous act as an "insult to Islam". The execution was carried out in front of a mosque after being officially suborned by religious leaders in the region, Azad told the AFP. From AFP:

"An unmarried young boy and an unmarried girl who loved each other and wanted to get married had eloped because their families would not approve the marriage," Azad said.

The pair, both adults, were discovered by Taliban militants and returned to their village in Khash Rod district where the extremists are active.

"Three Taliban mullahs brought them to the local mosque and they passed a fatwa (religious decree) that they must be killed. They were shot and killed in front of the mosque in public," the governor said.

The AP gives a similar account, and also provides the names of the victims:

A Taliban firing squad killed a young couple in southwestern Afghanistan for trying to elope, shooting them with AK-47s in front of a crowd in a lawless, militant-controlled region, officials said Tuesday.

The woman, 19-year-old Gul Pecha, and the man, 21-year-old Abdul Aziz, were accused by the militants of immoral acts, and a council of conservative clerics decided that the two should be killed, officials said.

However, in a conflicting report from the Telegraph, the victims' ages are actually reported to be much lower, with the girl being 14 years old and the boy 17 years old. From Telegraph:

A 14-year-old girl and her boyfriend have been executed by a Taliban firing squad after being caught eloping.

The pair were shot dead in front of their village mosque as their villagers looked on in south western Afghanistan, a district official said.

Hashim Noorzai, head of Khash Rud district of Nimroz province, said the girl, called Gulsima, had been unhappily engaged to marry when she fell in love with Aziz, aged 17.

The executions took place in Afganistan's Nimroz region, where the Afghan government has essentially no influence and where the Taliban and sharia law reign supreme. According to the BBC:

[Azad] said there were some reports that the families of the young couple could have links with the Taleban. The Taleban could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Taleban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and during that time implemented its austere interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, carrying out public killings and floggings.
Unmarried men and women were forbidden from talking or meeting in public and women were not allowed out of their homes without a male relative. Girls were discouraged from going to school.

Extrajudicial "honour killings" have been widely carried out in Afghanistan since then by conservative families angered by a relative who has brought them shame -- usually by refusing to marry a chosen partner.

The couple, in a modern day Romeo and Juliet scenario, was forced to elope because the woman was supposed to marry another man, whom she had no feelings for, according to CNN:

The woman was forced by her parents to become engaged to a man she did not like, said Police Chief Gabar Furdali, and decided to leave home with another man.

Local Taliban commanders found out and set out to punish them, said the police officer in the village of Man De Khe in the Kash Rud district of Nimruz province, a remote southwestern province that borders on Iran and Pakistan.

The Taliban gathered residents of Kash Rud to watch the execution of the two. The man, Abdul Aziz, and the woman, who was not named, were shot to death, the police officer said. He did not say when the killings took place.

NATO troops who patrol the country have "limited presence in that particular area," a spokesman told CNN.

Despite the Taliban's stranglehold in the region, the executions are not going completely uncriticized. In addition to Azad speaking out against the acts as an "insult to Islam", Nader Nadery of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission described the killings to the AP as the "worst act against mankind" and "completely against the principles of human rights."

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