Innocent inmate

11-year-old girl has spent her entire life behind bars for crimes of her notorious mother

Meena, 11, with her mother Shirin Gul, a covicted serial killer serving a life sentence, by a gate at Nangarhar provincial prison, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Dec. 2, 2017. Meena was conceived in prison and has never been out, not even for a brief visit. Under Afghan prison policy she can keep her daughter with her until she turns 18. (Mauricio Lima/The New York Times)

Prison law in Afghanistan dictates that when women are sent to prison, their children can go with them. It has been estimated that hundreds of children in the country live behind bars, either because they have no living relatives, or because none will take them. The New York Times recently interviewed a young girl named Meena, who has never seen the outside of the Nangarhar provincial prison in Jalalabad. Her mother is the notorious serial killer Shirin Gul.

Meena was conceived in prison, after her mother was convicted of aiding in the murders of 27 men. Gul confessed to luring the victims into her home and serving them drugged kebabs. Four family members — her lover, her son, her uncle and nephew—then robbed and killed the men. Gul was initially sentenced to hang, but after Meena’s birth, her punishment was commuted to life in prison.

“My whole life has passed in this prison,” Meena told the Times. “Yes, I wish I could go out. I want to leave here and live outside with my mother, but I won’t leave here without her.”

The reality may be more complicated. There are programs that will take in the children of imprisoned women, but Meena’s mother — a seemingly volatile woman who threatened to have ISIS cut off the Times reporter’s head — said that she will not allow her daughter to be taken unless she is also granted freedom.

Read the entirety of the dramatic interview at The New York Times.

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