A teenage Afghan girl was brutally tortured, beaten and locked in a toilet by her husband's family for five months after she refused to become a prostitute, it has emerged.
Sahar Gul, 15, was in critical condition when she was rescued from a house in northern Baghlan province last week, after her neighbours reported hearing Miss Gul crying and moaning in pain.
According to police in Baghlan, her in-laws pulled out her nails and hair, and locked her in a dark basement bathroom for about five months, with barely enough food and water to survive.
Her husband's family also burned the teenager with cigarettes and cut out chunks of her flesh with pliers.
After meeting with senior security officials today, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai said those responsible would be punished.
Despite being barely able to speak, Miss Gul managed to tell media about the terrifying ordeal.
'For several months I was locked up in a toilet by my in-laws and particularly my mother-in-law,' she said. 'I was denied food and water. I was tortured and beaten.'
Doctors say the youngster has suffered both mentally and physically and will need weeks of treatment in order to recover.
'She was married seven months ago, and was originally from Badakhshan province. Her in-laws tried to force her into prostitution to earn money,' Rahima Zarifi, head of women's affairs in Baghlan told Reuters.
Miss Gul is covered in scars and bruises, with one eye still swollen shut six days after her rescue.
She is being treated in a government hospital in Kabul, but she may have to be sent to India, doctors said.
'This is one of the worst cases of violence against Afghan women. The perpetrators must be punished so others learn a lesson,' health minister Suraya Dalil told journalists after visiting Miss Gul today with the women's affairs minister.
Mohammad Zia, a senior police official in Baghlan, who helped to rescue the girl, said Miss Gul's mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been detained, but her husband and father-in-law had escaped.
'We have launched a serious hunt to get her husband and the others involved,' Mr Zia said.
Despite progress in women's rights and freedom since the fall of the Taliban 10 years ago, women throughout the country are still at risk of abduction, rape, forced marriage and being traded as commodity.
However it can be hard for women to escape violent situations at home, because of huge social and sometimes legal pressure to stay in marriages.
Running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered 'moral crimes,' for which women are currently imprisoned in Afghanistan.
Some rape victims have also been imprisoned, because sex outside marriage, even when the woman is forced, is considered adultery, another 'moral crime.'
Barack Obama is widely expected to announce next week that he favours sending more than 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, in a momentous decision for his presidency. At an appea