Afghan woman
Rights group in Afghanistan have raised concerns over the lack of female police officers, which they say have resulted in women not reporting sexual abuse incidents – Representational image AREF KARIMI/AFP/Getty Images

An 18-year-old Afghan woman has accused the police commissioner of Zareh district in northern Balkh province of rape. She claimed that the police chief sexually assaulted her when she went to a police station to report a previous rape incident.

According to Reuters, the teenager was taken at a gunpoint from her home in Balkh province in July and was raped by two men. The woman, identified only as Mariam said: "When I went with my father to report the rape case, the police commissioner ordered my father to wait outside, and took me into his office where he also raped me."

However, police chief Akram Zareh denied the allegations and said that the victim and her father travelled to Kabul to draw public attention and seek justice.

"I am an honest policeman. I am 60. She is like my daughter," Zareh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday (7 November). "This is a plot against me."

Mariam is staying with her father in Kabul, who said that he met the country's attorney general, who assured him that case would be thoroughly investigated.

"My daughter said that she would burn herself alive, because she could not go out of the house and could not make eye contact with anyone due to shame," Mariam's father, Khairuddin said.

The Attorney General's Chief of Staff Baktash Azizi said that due to the sensitivity of the issue and to respect the victim's privacy, the attorney general has asked her to narrate the entire incident to a special female anti-violence officer in private.

"After hearing the case, the attorney general appointed the Balkh provincial prosecutor and a special military prosecutor to investigate and present their findings as soon as possible," he said.

The accused officer was still serving as the district police commissioner and Azizi added that he was being investigated in another rape case as well.

Meanwhile, Mariam called for Zareh to be removed from office immediately and threatened that she would immolate herself if he was not suspended.

"I will burn myself, but will not go back home where he is ruling. I will stay here [in Kabul] until I get justice."

Rights activists in Afghanistan have raised concerns over the lack of women police officers in the country, which they say have resulted in women or girls not coming forward to report sexual assault cases.

Research shows that at least eight out of 10 women in Afghanistan have been abused either sexually, physically or psychologically, but only a few thousand cases are reported each year.

According to the aid agency Oxfam, even if a rape case is reported it is not often handled properly due to cultural and social reasons prevailing in the conservative society.