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Afghan women imprisoned for 'moral' crimes

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

Prisoners in their cell at Badam Bagh, Afghanistan's central women's prison, in Kabul. A total of 202 women are imprisoned in the six-year-old jail, the majority of them in connection to so-called "moral" crimes.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

A prisoner with her child.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

Mariam, who shot the man who raped her, has spent the past three months in Badam Bagh prison without any idea of why she was imprisoned, what charges she faces or when she can leave.

Lost and alone in a strange city Mariam called the only person she knew, her husband's cousin. She had left her home in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province, fleeing her husband's relentless and increasingly vicious beatings. The man promised to help, but too busy to come himself he sent a friend who took her to a house, held a gun to her head and raped her.

Finished with her he settled in front of a TV set, the gun on a table by his side. Choosing her moment, Mariam picked up the gun, shot her assailant in the head and turned the gun on herself.

"Three days later I woke up in the hospital," she said, shyly removing a scarf from her head to reveal a partially shaved head and a long jagged scar that ran almost the length of her head where the bullet grazed her scalp.

From the hospital Mariam was sent to a police station and from there to Badam Bagh, Afghanistan's central women's prison, where she told her story to The Associated Press. For the past three months Mariam has been waiting to find out what charges she faces.

Mariam is one of 202 women living in the six-year-old jail. The majority are serving sentences of up to seven years for leaving their husbands, refusing to accept a marriage arranged by their parents, or choosing to leave their parents' home with a man of their choice — all so-called "moral" crimes, says the prison's director general Zaref Jan Naebi. Read the full story.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

Adia, 27, left her husband, a drug addict, seeking shelter with her parents. They told her to go home to her husband, who had followed her demanding she return. She went to court to seek help but instead they sentenced her to six years in prison. Seven months pregnant, Adia will have her baby in jail.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

A prisoner hanging up laundry on a small patch of open space surrounded by a razor-topped fence.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

A prisoner outside her cell.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

Prisoner Nuria with her infant son. "When I went to court for the divorce, instead of giving me a divorce, they charged me with running away," Nuria said. The man she wanted to marry was also charged and is now serving time in Afghanistan's notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

Children walking through the prison. 62 children live with their imprisoned mothers in the jail.

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

Fauzia is the oldest woman in the jail and has already served seven years. She will serve a 17 year sentence for killing her husband and her daughter-in-law. "I was in one room. I came into the next room and they were there having sexual relations. I found a big knife and killed them both," she said in a voice empty of emotion.

Editor's note: Pictures taken on March 28, 2013 and made available to NBC News today.

Rahmat Gul / AP

More than ten years after the beginning of the war, Afghanistan faces external pressure to reform as well as ongoing internal conflicts.

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