A group of female detainees have burned down sections of the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison in the Afghan capital of Kabul following violent protests, Khaama Press reports.
“Pictures emerging from the prison purportedly shows certain accommodations on fire inside the jail with reports suggesting the female prisoners started demonstrations after complaining regarding cells where they are kept,” notes the report.
“There are also reports that an individual was taken hostage by the rioting prisoners but there are no reports regarding the possible casualties,” it continues. “The security officials have not commented regarding the incident so far.”
Pul-e-Charkhi prison, described as the largest prison in Afghanistan, is located in eastern Kabul.
“Completed in the 1980s, the government keep both the male and female prisoners in separate sections but the living conditions of the prison have been criticized by several human rights groups,” points out Khaama Press. “The rights groups in their reports have mainly cited the prison for being overcrowded and the living conditions as sub-par.”
In October 2014, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a congressionally-mandated watchdog agency, reported that the prison was overcrowded and lacked basic infrastructure.
The “prison is being used, but in an overcrowded condition with prisoners housed in hallways,” noted the watchdog agency. “The prison was designed for about 5,000 prisoners, but currently houses about 7,400.”
SIGAR found that corruption involving the contractors charged with renovating the detention center is the primary culprit for the prison’s problems.
Renovation remained incomplete as of September 2014, after more than five years of work and an estimated $20 million of U.S. taxpayer funds spent.
In 2007, Afghan lawmakers accused some officials at Pul-e-Charkhi detention center of raping women prisoners.
The accusations came after an Amnesty International report warned about possible abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan.
“A delegation of Afghan parliamentarians [MPs] who recently visited the prison say some women become pregnant after being raped,” reported BBC Persian.
“The findings of parliament delegation suggest that prison officials first give medicines to prisoners to stupefy them and then sexually assault them,” adds the report.
Fouzia Kofi, one of the MPs who met one of the victims in the prison, explained how some women prisoners were drugged and raped.
“They [prisoners] say when we are ill and ask for medicines, they gave the medicines to make them unconscious, and then they are sexually abused,” she said. “In some cases they are forcibly taken to the offices of prison officials, few women have got pregnant.”
“The numbers of women who are ready to talk about these issues are few and unfortunately they don’t have the gut to expose the truth,” added the MP. “Because when we [the fact-finding delegation] leave the prison, they become defenseless.”