A French court has convicted a migrant for the crime of rape after rejecting his defense argument of taking his culture into consideration when making a ruling. 30-year-old Mohammed Rahman Arsala from Afghanistan was sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping a 12-year-old boy.
Arsala arrived in France in 2016, and the crime took place on Aug. 25, 2018. The boy was on his way to a park and was traveling in a bus. Arsala was seated in front of the child. When the boy stepped out at a stop, the accused also exited the bus. He followed the child, grabbed his arm, and took him to an abandoned house close to the playground to commit the rape.
After the crime, Arsala returned the boy to the park. Four minor girls, who had previously been bothered by the accused, saw the boy’s distraught look and called the police. The man fled, but the girls identified Arsala near a shopping center later in the day and informed authorities, who subsequently arrested the rapist.
In court, the migrant stated that the child had consented because the boy followed him. He said that the rape would never have occurred if he had been married. “He tells us that if he had been married, that would never have happened because he would have had a wife to satisfy his needs… But does he, therefore, see others only as objects?” the lawyer for the civil parties asked in the court.
Arsala said that he was willing to sign a document promising to never commit rape again, and complained that he had already spent too much time in prison. His defense lawyer asked the court to take his “cultural element” into account since “we are all the product of cultural standards” and he was “100 kilometers from Kabul.”
Bacha Bazi is a custom of sexual abuse of minor boys by older men in Afghanistan. Although the practice is illegal in the country, violators are seldom penalized. Local officials claim that they are unable to end the practice because several powerful warlords and high-ranking individuals are involved in the activity.
The court dismissed the defense lawyer’s arguments, finding Arsala guilty of raping the boy and sentencing him to prison. After his jail term, he will be deported from France.
Arsala has a long history of sexual and violent crimes. In April 2018, he took a young girl to his home and threw her up against the wall. He has taken photos of young children standing in front of their school, and a few girls reported Arsala after they found him masturbating on a beach. In prison, he acted inappropriately towards a female nurse and was transferred to another facility. He is also accused of sexually assaulting a prison inmate.
In France, some immigrant areas are hotspots for criminal activity, such as the migrant-populated 18th arrondissement in Paris. In 2019, Le Parisien published a story exposing the high crime rates in the region. Colombe Brossel, the security advisor to the Paris mayor, wrote a letter to the French Interior Minister expressing the views of residents.
“A young woman with a tiny baby told me straight in my eyes: ‘When I get out of the metro, there are 200 m to go, and I am being harassed. I don’t want to see my child grow up in this environment’,” Brossel wrote in the letter.
Arsala’s excuse of “cultural differences” has been used in defense of multiple rape offenses by migrants in other European nations. In 2018, a migrant from Syria was convicted for raping a 12-year-old girl in Sweden. The 17-year-old accused claimed that he did not know sex with a 12-year-old was illegal in the country. He was only sentenced for drug offenses, unlawful threats, and threats to officials.