A woman’s emotional video testimony about the horrifying abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her Taliban husband has gone viral and highlighted what one rights advocate says is a “shocking” reality for dozens of women in Afghanistan. The woman, who identifies herself as Elaha, says she was forced to marry a former Taliban Interior Ministry spokesperson in January, who then raped and beat her for months.
Elaha says she was even forced to kiss the feet of her ex-husband, Qari Saeed Khosty, to beg for forgiveness after she got caught trying to flee the country.
CBS News has spoken with a friend of Elaha, who confirms her story and says the woman is still desperate to flee Afghanistan.
Elaha identifies herself in the emotional video, first posted to Twitter by Afghan journalist Abu Muslim Shirzad, as a medical student and the daughter of a former general in Afghanistan’s national intelligence service, under the US-backed government.
“Saeed Khosty filmed me and threatened to release it publicly. He forced me to do ugly things. He raped me every night. He beat me every night,” Elaha says through tears in the video, which was first posted to Twitter on August 30 .
She says she tried to flee to neighboring Pakistan but was stopped and arrested at the Torkham border crossing by Taliban officials. She says she was then imprisoned and forced to “kiss his [Khosty’s] feet” at the prison to show her regret for the escape attempt and to beg forgiveness.
Khosty, who was removed from his role as Interior Ministry spokesperson in March, confirmed his marriage with Elaha in a tweet, but claimed he divorced her after she insulted the Quran, Islam’s holy book.
“I married a girl named Elaha at her request,” the Taliban official claimed. “I noticed she had a faith problem in Islam, and I tried to correct her through advice and discussion. But it didn’t work, and she clearly insulted the scared and the Holy Quran.”
“I didn’t beat her,” he insisted. “I used my legal rights and divorced her. I deeply regret my ill-considered marriage and apologize to the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirates [Taliban] and the Afghan people.”
Khosti confirmed to CBS News that he married Elaha as his second wife in January. He said he currently holds no government position within the Taliban regime.
In another tweet, he said that if Elaha “believes in the courts of the Islamic Emirate, she can lodge a complaint against me. If I am guilty, the court should punish me. If she does not believe in the courts of the Islamic Emirate , I’m ready to go with her to any court she wants. Please don’t use the family issue politically.”
Another video that spread widely among Afghans online, with an unknown recording date, shows Elaha holding a shovel and confronting Khosty, demanding that he leave her home as he threatens her and warns: “I have armed people as well with me.”
After the group retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021, many Taliban officials quickly married second and third wives. The issue brought sufficient negative attention on the new regime to prompt the Taliban’s supreme leader to issue a decree instructing members to avoid more than one marriage.
Amnesty International campaigner and women’s rights activist Samira Hamidi said a tweet that “the testimony of Elha, a medical student, about her forced marriage, rape, and torture by a powerful armed Talib is shocking reality of what dozens of women and girls are facing.”
She called on the United Nations to “immediately act to save her.”
Elaha’s friend told CBS News that the woman, whose bruises are visible in her video account, remains in Kabul.
A tweet from an account with a short history on the social media platform surfaced on Wednesday claiming to be from Afghanistan’s Taliban-run Supreme Court, saying Elaha had been arrested, but both her friend and the actual Supreme Court said the account and the tweet were fake.
“After this video, nobody might see me again. I might die,” Elaha says in the video through sobs. “But it is better to die once than die repeatedly.”