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Sahar Gul, who is being treated in a Kabul hospital, is seen on January 5.
When we last left her, Sahar Gul was in dire straits.

The 15-year-old Afghan newlywed, who was allegedly tortured by her husband and in-laws and kept in a basement for several months, was near death when she was rescued about two weeks ago.

Now her doctors, who spoke to RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, say Gul's condition has improved a bit and that there's no need to send her to India for treatment, as Afghan officials had planned.

Ghamaredin Hafez, the head of the Kabul hospital where Gul is being treated, said, "She was in such critical condition when she was brought here that she wasn’t expected to survive, but as you see, [she’s getting better].”

He added that it will take significantly more time before Gul’s psychological wounds are healed.

“She’s been psychologically deeply harmed. What she needs is a secure atmosphere and absolute rest,” said Hafez.

RFA correspondents who met with Gul report that the wounds and bruises covering her body are beginning to heal and that she can now open her left eye -- previously swollen shut as a result of the beating she said she was subjected to.

While very weak and barely able to speak, she told RFA that the Afghan government should punish those who tortured her.

Gul, speaking to Radio Free Afghanistan
Gul, speaking to Radio Free Afghanistan
“Put them in prison. That is all I want,” she said.

Gul previously said she was "tortured continuously, every three or four days," in the six months since being sold into marriage far from home with a man twice her age.

She has accused her husband's family of abusing her with pincers, pulling out her fingernails, and ripping out clumps of her hair.

According to officials in northeastern Baghlan Province, where Gul was held, she was also tortured with hot irons and her fingers were broken.

Some local residents say she was tortured after she refused her in-laws' demand that she become a prostitute.

Gul's plight has attracted domestic and international attention and has underlined concerns over the bleak situation for women in Afghanistan, where many are routinely subjected to abuse and discrimination.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has vowed to punish those responsible for Gul's ordeal.

Fazal Rahman, a police officer in Baghlan's second district, said on January 2 that the authorities had arrested Gul's mother-in-law and sister-in-law and were looking for her brother-in-law and father-in-law.

Afghan officials have directed the Defense Ministry to arrest Gul's husband, who is currently serving as a soldier in southern Helmand Province.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari, based on reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan
Ramazan Esergepov
TARAZ, Kazakhstan -- Several Kazakh activists gathered at a prison in southern Kazakhstan today to demand the release of journalist Ramazan Esergepov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Rozlana Taukina, chairwoman of the media nongovernmental organization Journalists in Danger, and freelance journalist Andrey Sviridov were at the prison in Taraz to call for Esergepov's immediate release.

Activists also released balloons imprinted with the names of jailed journalists in Kazakhstan.

Prison authorities and the Prosecutor-General's Office have said Esergepov should be released by 9 a.m. on January 6.

Esergepov, who was chief editor and founder of the independent weekly newspaper "Alma-Ata Info," was jailed for three years in August 2009 over an article about alleged links between a businessman and the National Security Committee (KNB).

Esergepov and rights organizations protested the verdict, saying it was politically motivated. "Alma-Ata Info" was closed down after his arrest.

Esergepov told RFE/RL last year that he plans to become a human rights activist and will fight against corruption after his release. He added that he will also work to prove his innocence and clear his name of the charges against him.

Esergepov is recipient of the 2011 Hellman-Hammett Grant. The award is administered by Human Rights Watch and is awarded to writers and journalists who have been subject to political persecution and are in financial need.

Read more in Kazakh here
Read more in Russian here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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