KABUL -- An Afghan woman, who was jailed for "forced adultery" after a relative raped her before subsequently being pardoned amid an international outcry over the case, has told RFE/RL she wants to marry her attacker to avoid "hostility" and so her baby daughter does not grow up "as an orphan."
The 21-year-old woman, named Gulnaz, is staying in a secret government safe house after being released from a Kabul prison on December 13 under a presidential pardon.
She was sentenced to two years in prison for "adultery by force" after she was raped by her cousin's husband in 2009. As a result of the attack, she gave birth to a daughter while in prison.
The case has attracted international disapproval and highlighted the dismal state of women's rights in Afghanistan 10 years after a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban, who are notorious for their harsh laws against women.
Sex outside marriage -- even in cases of rape -- remains one of several "moral crimes" in Afghanistan for which women can be imprisoned. Others include leaving an abusive husband and running away from a forced marriage.
Gulnaz was pardoned on December 1 by Afghan President Hamid Karzai after he met with judicial officials amid growing international criticism about her plight.
Risk Of 'Honor Killing'
Despite the pardon, she remained in prison for another two weeks. The case created further uproar when judicial officials advised Gulnaz that she should marry the man who raped her.
That advice was reportedly based on fears that Gulnaz could become the victim of an "honor killing" by other members of her family if released, because of the stigma surrounding rape victims in Afghanistan.
In an interview on December 15 with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan from a safe house run by Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gulnaz appeared frightened about her safety. But she also denied that she was afraid of anyone in her family.
At first, she said she felt she was being forced to marry a rapist. But then, when asked what she would do with her life if she had her own choice, she backed away from the contention that she would marry the rapist against her will -- claiming that she really does want to marry her attacker.
"I want to marry him, no matter what happens to me," she said. "No matter how badly I have been treated, I want my daughter to have a mother and a father -- to have parents.
"I don't want her to be like an orphan without any destiny...The man is also in jail. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. And then his sentence was reduced to 12 years. And my sentence has been reduced, so I am free. I want him to be freed as well so that we can get married. I want to make a compromise. I don't want hostilities."
'There Is Nobody To Take Me Back Home'
Although Gulnaz's attacker remains in prison because of the case, she told RFE/RL that she wants him to be freed so that a wedding can take place and so that she will be accepted again by her family:
"I urge President Karzai to release him as well so that he can marry me, and so I will be able to go with him to my home," she said. "I have a little baby girl who is often ill, and I have my own [health] problems as well. I was innocent, but I have spent two years in prison. And now, they have pardoned me and put me here [in a government safe house]. But there is nobody here to take me back to my home."
Gulnaz denied reports suggesting she was being kept in a safe house because her brothers or other relatives planned to carry out a so-called "honor killing."
"There is no danger for me [from my family]," she said. "I want to go with my brothers, but my brothers don't want to take me. So I will go with this man [who attacked me.]"
But pressed further, she intimated that she doesn't believe government officials who say she will be allowed to return to her family, and that she wants guarantees from both her brothers and the man who raped her before she marries.
"They are just reassuring me when they say I will go home, but I know I am not going to be released from this safe house because they see that I am crying and that I'm very concerned about what will happen," she said.
"I want [President Karzai] to ensure that I am married to this man, but I also want my brothers and this man to sign a document guaranteeing that nothing bad is going to happen to me in the future."
Calling for Gulnaz's release prior to her pardon by Karzai, Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir William Patey, said: "Any woman who is raped should be seen as a victim. They're not criminals."
written by RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz in Prague; with reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Hamid Mohmand in Kabul