Separate Religion from State. Declare Pakistan to be Secular – Petition

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The Government
The Judiciary and
The Army of Pakistan!

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To assure that incidents such as the tragedy of Peshawar and ongoing violence against minority populations do not continue to happen, and that the Taliban and other violent religious formations do not flourish in Pakistan, please acknowledge one of the root causes of it.

Separate Religion from State!

Declare Pakistan to be a Secular Democracy.

Secular Pakistan
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‘Deliberate distortion of the reality lived by Muslim women’ by Haroon Siddiqui

By:  Columnist, The Star. 

The two most cited reasons in support of Quebec’s anti-niqab bill are that the veil is an imposed oppression since no woman would ever voluntarily wear it and, second, that the province’s proposal to deny public services to niqabi women is far less punitive than the strictures imposed on non-Muslims in some Muslim countries.

The first proposition is conjecture. The second is misguided moral equivalency.

We can’t, and don’t, run Canada by the rules of theocracies. Ours is a secular democracy, in which all citizens are equal and must be treated as such – not as a favour to them but as a duty to our Constitution.

This is so obvious a point as to be moot. But it is not with those who argue, quite seriously, that since Iran discriminates against Baha’is and Jews, and Saudi Arabia does not allow non-Muslims to even hold public religious services, Canadian Muslims shouldn’t complain if their rights are trampled.

Controversies are the lifeblood of democracy but they also provide insights into public prejudices.

It is commonly assumed that Muslim women the world over are oppressed, so they must be in Canada as well. Even intelligent people, including some academics, routinely parrot that line, with zero proof.

Muslim women are oppressed all right. But are they any more so than others?

Take violence against women. Studies show that the phenomenon cuts across class, race, culture and religion. A World Health Organization survey found violence against women by spouses/partners to be “a common experience worldwide.” In Europe, “domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for women aged 16 to 44, and accounts for more death and ill-health than cancer or traffic accidents,” according to Amnesty International. A quarter of American women are physically or sexually assaulted by a partner or a date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Take women in leadership roles. The three most populous Muslim nations – Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh – have had women leaders. So has Turkey. Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto and Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia served two terms each. Compare that to Kim Campbell, who was prime minister for 4 1/2 months.

In Pakistan’s National Assembly, 76 of 342 members are women – 22.2 per cent, compared with Canada’s 22.1 per cent in the Commons. Counting all elected women at the federal, provincial and municipal level, Pakistan ranks well ahead of Canada, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Take post-secondary education. Several Muslim nations, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, are showing the same trend as in the West, where a majority of students are women.

Contrast all this to the relentlessly negative portrayal of Muslim women in our popular culture. And when this image is grafted onto Muslim women in the West, the picture gets further distorted.

A Gallup survey shows that Muslim American women are among the most highly educated female religious groups, second only to Jewish American women. They are more likely than American Muslim men to have college and postgraduate degrees and to earn as much. “As a group, Muslim Americans have the highest degree of economic gender parity at the high and low ends of the spectrum.”

I can’t find comparable figures for Canada but there is little reason to think it is much different.

A separate Gallup poll shows majorities of Muslim women around the world believe that women should have the same legal rights as men. They may not equate the bikini with liberation but their aspirations are not much different than those of women elsewhere. This is even more so for Muslim women living in the West.

Also, the general values of Muslims living in Europe and North America, both men and women, are the same as those of other citizens.

None of this is to deny the many horrors inflicted daily on Muslim women or that some Canadian women may be forced to wear a veil. It is only to say that the opposite assumption – that all or nearly all are oppressed – is stupid and dishonest.

As Pankaj Mishra, noted Indian essayist and novelist and a Hindu familiar with the plight of women of all faiths, writes:

“Almost every day, the media berate Islam, often couching their prejudice in the highly moral language of women’s rights: It is not due to oversight that Indian women murdered for failing to bring sufficient dowry, a staggering 6,787 in 2005 (and since reported at 8,093 in 2007), occupy a fraction of the print acreage devoted to the tiny minority of veiled women.”

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star’s editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.

hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

Originally Published at The Star.Com on Thu Apr 08 2010.

‘The crimewave that shames the world’ by Robert Fisk

It is a tragedy, a horror, a crime against humanity. The details of the murders – of the women beheaded, burned to death, stoned to death, stabbed, electrocuted, strangled and buried alive for the “honour” of their families – are as barbaric as they are shameful. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and South-west Asia suspect the victims are at least four times the United Nations’ latest world figure of around 5,000 deaths a year. Most of the victims are young, many are teenagers, slaughtered under a vile tradition that goes back hundreds of years but which now spans half the globe.

A 10-month investigation by The Independent in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank has unearthed terrifying details of murder most foul. Men are also killed for “honour” and, despite its identification by journalists as a largely Muslim practice, Christian and Hindu communities have stooped to the same crimes. Indeed, the “honour” (or ird) of families, communities and tribes transcends religion and human mercy. But voluntary women’s groups, human rights organisations, Amnesty International and news archives suggest that the slaughter of the innocent for “dishonouring” their families is increasing by the year.

Iraqi Kurds, Palestinians in Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey appear to be the worst offenders but media freedoms in these countries may over-compensate for the secrecy which surrounds “honour” killings in Egypt – which untruthfully claims there are none – and other Middle East nations in the Gulf and the Levant. But honour crimes long ago spread to Britain, Belgium, Russia and Canada and many other nations. Security authorities and courts across much of the Middle East have connived in reducing or abrogating prison sentences for the family murder of women, often classifying them as suicides to prevent prosecutions.

It is difficult to remain unemotional at the vast and detailed catalogue of these crimes. How should one react to a man – this has happened in both Jordan and Egypt – who rapes his own daughter and then, when she becomes pregnant, kills her to save the “honour” of his family? Or the Turkish father and grandfather of a 16-year-old girl, Medine Mehmi, in the province of Adiyaman, who was buried alive beneath a chicken coop in February for “befriending boys”? Her body was found 40 days later, in a sitting position and with her hands tied.

Or Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, 13, who in Somalia in 2008, in front of a thousand people, was dragged to a hole in the ground – all the while screaming, “I’m not going – don’t kill me” – then buried up to her neck and stoned by 50 men for adultery? After 10 minutes, she was dug up, found to be still alive and put back in the hole for further stoning. Her crime? She had been raped by three men and, fatally, her family decided to report the facts to the Al-Shabab militia that runs Kismayo. Or the Al-Shabab Islamic “judge” in the same country who announced the 2009 stoning to death of a woman – the second of its kind the same year – for having an affair? Her boyfriend received a mere 100 lashes.

Or the young woman found in a drainage ditch near Daharki in Pakistan, “honour” killed by her family as she gave birth to her second child, her nose, ears and lips chopped off before being axed to death, her first infant lying dead among her clothes, her newborn’s torso still in her womb, its head already emerging from her body? She was badly decomposed; the local police were asked to bury her. Women carried the three to a grave, but a Muslim cleric refused to say prayers for her because it was “irreligious” to participate in the namaz-e-janaza prayers for “a cursed woman and her illegitimate children”.

So terrible are the details of these “honour” killings, and so many are the women who have been slaughtered, that the story of each one might turn horror into banality. But lest these acts – and the names of the victims, when we are able to discover them – be forgotten, here are the sufferings of a mere handful of women over the past decade, selected at random, country by country, crime after crime.

Last March, Munawar Gul shot and killed his 20-year-old sister, Saanga, in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, along with the man he suspected was having “illicit relations” with her, Aslam Khan.

In August of 2008, five women were buried alive for “honour crimes” in Baluchistan by armed tribesmen; three of them – Hameeda, Raheema and Fauzia – were teenagers who, after being beaten and shot, were thrown still alive into a ditch where they were covered with stones and earth. When the two older women, aged 45 and 38, protested, they suffered the same fate. The three younger women had tried to choose their own husbands. In the Pakistani parliament, the MP Israrullah Zehri referred to the murders as part of a “centuries-old tradition” which he would “continue to defend”.

In December 2003, a 23-year-old woman in Multan, identified only as Afsheen, was murdered by her father because, after an unhappy arranged marriage, she ran off with a man called Hassan who was from a rival, feuding tribe. Her family was educated – they included civil servants, engineers and lawyers. “I gave her sleeping pills in a cup of tea and then strangled her with a dapatta [a long scarf, part of a woman’s traditional dress],” her father confessed. He told the police: “Honour is the only thing a man has. I can still hear her screams, she was my favourite daughter. I want to destroy my hands and end my life.” The family had found Afsheen with Hassan in Rawalpindi and promised she would not be harmed if she returned home. They were lying.

Zakir Hussain Shah slit the throat of his daughter Sabiha, 18, at Bara Kau in June 2002 because she had “dishonoured” her family. But under Pakistan’s notorious qisas law, heirs have powers to pardon a murderer. In this case, Sabiha’s mother and brother “pardoned” the father and he was freed. When a man killed his four sisters in Mardan in the same year, because they wanted a share of his inheritance, his mother “pardoned” him under the same law. In Sarghoda around the same time, a man opened fire on female members of his family, killing two of his daughters. Yet again, his wife – and several other daughters wounded by him – “pardoned” the murderer because they were his heirs.

Outrageously, rape is also used as a punishment for “honour” crimes. In Meerwala village in the Punjab in 2002, a tribal “jury” claimed that an 11-year-old boy from the Gujar tribe, Abdul Shakoor, had been walking unchaperoned with a 30-year-old woman from the Mastoi tribe, which “dishonoured” the Mastois. The tribal elders decided that to “return” honour to the group, the boy’s 18-year-old sister, Mukhtaran Bibi, should be gang-raped. Her father, warned that all the female members of his family would be raped if he did not bring Mukhtar to them, dutifully brought his daughter to this unholy “jury”. Four men, including one of the “jury”, immediately dragged the girl to a hut and raped her while up to a hundred men laughed and cheered outside. She was then forced to walk naked through the village to her home. It took a week before the police even registered the crime – as a “complaint”.

Acid attacks also play their part in “honour” crime punishments. The Independent itself gave wide coverage in 2001 to a Karachi man called Bilal Khar who poured acid over his wife Fakhra Yunus’s face after she left him and returned to her mother’s home in the red-light area of the city. The acid fused her lips, burned off her hair, melted her breasts and an ear, and turned her face into “a look of melted rubber”. That same year, a 20-year-old woman called Hafiza was shot twice by her brother, Asadullah, in front of a dozen policemen outside a Quetta courthouse because she had refused to follow the tradition of marrying her dead husband’s elder brother. She had then married another man, Fayyaz Moon, but police arrested the girl and brought her back to her family in Quetta on the pretext that the couple could formally marry there. But she was forced to make a claim that Fayaz had kidnapped and raped her. It was when she went to court to announce that her statement was made under pressure – and that she still regarded Fayaz as her husband – that Asadullah murdered her. He handed his pistol to a police constable who had witnessed the killing.

One of the most terrible murders in 1999 was that of a mentally retarded 16-year-old, Lal Jamilla Mandokhel, who was reportedly raped by a junior civil servant in Parachinar in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Her uncle filed a complaint with the police but handed Lal over to her tribe, whose elders decided she should be killed to preserve tribal “honour”. She was shot dead in front of them. Arbab Khatoon was raped by three men in the Jacobabad district. She filed a complaint with the police. Seven hours later, she was murdered by relatives who claimed she had “dishonoured” them by reporting the crime.

Over 10 years ago, Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission was recording “honour” killings at the rate of a thousand a year. But if Pakistan seems to have the worst track record of “honour” crimes – and we must remember that many countries falsely claim to have none – Turkey might run a close second. According to police figures between 2000 and 2006, a reported 480 women – 20 per cent of them between the ages of 19 and 25 – were killed in “honour” crimes and feuds. Other Turkish statistics, drawn up more than five years ago by women’s groups, suggest that at least 200 girls and women are murdered every year for “honour”. These figures are now regarded as a vast underestimate. Many took place in Kurdish areas of the country; an opinion poll found that 37 per cent of Diyabakir’s citizens approved of killing a woman for an extramarital affair. Medine Mehmi, the girl who was buried alive, lived in the Kurdish town of Kahta.

In 2006, authorities in the Kurdish area of South-east Anatolia were recording that a woman tried to commit suicide every few weeks on the orders of her family. Others were stoned to death, shot, buried alive or strangled. A 17-year-old woman called Derya who fell in love with a boy at her school received a text message from her uncle on her mobile phone. It read: “You have blackened our name. Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.” Derya’s aunt had been killed by her grandfather for an identical reason. Her brothers also sent text messages, sometimes 15 a day. Derya tried to carry out her family’s wishes. She jumped into the Tigris river, tried to hang herself and slashed her wrists – all to no avail. Then she ran away to a women’s shelter.

It took 13 years before Murat Kara, 40, admitted in 2007 that he had fired seven bullets into his younger sister after his widowed mother and uncles told him to kill her for eloping with her boyfriend. Before he murdered his sister in the Kurdish city of Dyabakir, neighbours had refused to talk to Murat Kara and the imam said he was disobeying the word of God if he did not kill his sister. So he became a murderer. Honour restored.

In his book Women In The Grip Of Tribal Customs, a Turkish journalist, Mehmet Farac, records the “honour” killing of five girls in the late 1990s in the province of Sanliurfa. Two of them – one was only 12 – had their throats slit in public squares, two others had tractors driven over them, the fifth was shot dead by her younger brother. One of the women who had her throat cut was called Sevda Gok. Her brothers held her arms down as her adolescent cousin cut her throat.

But the “honour” killing of women is not a uniquely Kurdish crime, even if it is committed in rural areas of the country. In 2001, Sait Kina stabbed his 13-year-old daughter to death for talking to boys in the street. He attacked her in the bathroom with an axe and a kitchen knife. When the police discovered her corpse, they found the girl’s head had been so mutilated that the family had tied it together with a scarf. Sait Kina told the police: “I have fulfilled my duty.”

In the same year, an Istanbul court reduced a sentence against three brothers from life imprisonment to between four and 12 years after they threw their sister to her death from a bridge after accusing her of being a prostitute. The court concluded that her behaviour had “provoked” the murder. For centuries, virginity tests have been considered a normal part of rural tradition before a woman’s marriage. In 1998, when five young women attempted suicide before these tests, the Turkish family affairs minister defended mandated medical examinations for girls in foster homes.

British Kurdish Iraqi campaigner Aso Kamal, of the Doaa Network Against Violence, believes that between 1991 and 2007, 12,500 women were murdered for reasons of “honour” in the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq alone – 350 of them in the first seven months of 2007, for which there were only five convictions. Many women are ordered by their families to commit suicide by burning themselves with cooking oil. In Sulimaniya hospital in 2007, surgeons were treating many women for critical burns which could never have been caused by cooking “accidents” as the women claimed. One patient, Sirwa Hassan, was dying of 86 per cent burns. She was a Kurdish mother of three from a village near the Iranian border. In 2008, a medical officer in Sulimaniya told the AFP news agency that in May alone, 14 young women had been murdered for “honour” crimes in 10 days. In 2000, Kurdish authorities in Sulimaniya had decreed that “the killing or abuse of women under the pretext of cleansing ‘shame’ is not considered to be a mitigating excuse”. The courts, they said, could not apply an old 1969 law “to reduce the penalty of the perpetrator”. The new law, of course, made no difference.

But again, in Iraq, it is not only Kurds who believe in “honour” killings. In Tikrit, a young woman in the local prison sent a letter to her brother in 2008, telling him that she had become pregnant after being raped by a prison guard. The brother was permitted to visit the prison, walked into the cell where his now visibly pregnant sister was held, and shot her dead to spare his family “dishonour”. The mortuary in Baghdad took DNA samples from the woman’s foetus and also from guards at the Tikrit prison. The rapist was a police lieutenant-colonel. The reason for the woman’s imprisonment was unclear. One report said the colonel’s family had “paid off” the woman’s relatives to escape punishment.

In Basra in 2008, police were reporting that 15 women a month were being murdered for breaching “Islamic dress codes”. One 17-year-old girl, Rand Abdel-Qader, was beaten to death by her father two years ago because she had become infatuated with a British soldier. Another, Shawbo Ali Rauf, 19, was taken by her family to a picnic in Dokan and shot seven times because they had found an unfamiliar number on her mobile phone.

In Nineveh, Du’a Khalil Aswad was 17 when she was stoned to death by a mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a man outside her tribe.

In Jordan, women’s organisations say that per capita, the Christian minority in this country of just over five million people are involved in more “honour” killings than Muslims – often because Christian women want to marry Muslim men. But the Christian community is loath to discuss its crimes and the majority of known cases of murder are committed by Muslims. Their stories are wearily and sickeningly familiar. Here is Sirhan in 1999, boasting of the efficiency with which he killed his young sister, Suzanne. Three days after the 16-year-old had told police she had been raped, Sirhan shot her in the head four times. “She committed a mistake, even if it was against her will,” he said. “Anyway, it’s better to have one person die than to have the whole family die of shame.” Since then, a deeply distressing pageant of “honour” crimes has been revealed to the Jordanian public, condemned by the royal family and slowly countered with ever tougher criminal penalties by the courts.

Yet in 2001, we find a 22-year-old Jordanian man strangling his 17-year-old married sister – the 12th murder of its kind in seven months – because he suspected her of having an affair. Her husband lived in Saudi Arabia. In 2002, Souad Mahmoud strangled his own sister for the same reason. She had been forced to marry her lover – but when the family found out she had been pregnant before her wedding, they decided to execute her.

In 2005, three Jordanians stabbed their 22-year-old married sister to death for taking a lover. After witnessing the man enter her home, the brothers stormed into the house and killed her. They did not harm her lover.

By March 2008, the Jordanian courts were still treating “honour” killings leniently. That month, the Jordanian Criminal Court sentenced two men for killing close female relatives “in a fit of fury” to a mere six months and three months in prison. In the first case, a husband had found a man in his home with his wife and suspected she was having an affair. In the second, a man shot dead his 29-year-old married sister for leaving home without her husband’s consent and “talking to other men on her mobile phone”. In 2009, a Jordanian man confessed to stabbing his pregnant sister to death because she had moved back to her family after an argument with her husband; the brother believed she was “seeing other men”.

And so it goes on. Three men in Amman stabbing their 40-year-old divorced sister 15 times last year for taking a lover; a Jordanian man charged with stabbing to death his daughter, 22, with a sword because she was pregnant outside wedlock. Many of the Jordanian families were originally Palestinian. Nine months ago, a Palestinian stabbed his married sister to death because of her “bad behaviour”. But last month, the Amman criminal court sentenced another sister-killer to 10 years in prison, rejecting his claim of an “honour” killing – but only because there were no witnesses to his claim that she had committed adultery.

In “Palestine” itself, Human Rights Watch has long blamed the Palestinian police and justice system for the near-total failure to protect women in Gaza and the West Bank from “honour” killings. Take, for example, the 17-year-old girl who was strangled by her older brother in 2005 for becoming pregnant – by her own father.

He was present during her murder. She had earlier reported her father to the police. They neither arrested nor interrogated him. In the same year, masked Hamas gunmen shot dead a 20-year-old, Yusra Azzami, for “immoral behaviour” as she spent a day out with her fiancée. Azzami was a Hamas member, her husband-to-be a member of Fatah. Hamas tried to apologise and called the dead woman a “martyr” – to the outrage of her family. Yet only last year, long after Hamas won the Palestinian elections and took over the Gaza Strip, a Gaza man was detained for bludgeoning his daughter to death with an iron chain because he discovered she owned a mobile phone on which he feared she was talking to a man outside the family. He was later released.

Even in liberal Lebanon, there are occasional “honour” killings, the most notorious that of a 31-year-old woman, Mona Kaham, whose father entered her bedroom and cut her throat after learning she had been made pregnant by her cousin. He walked to the police station in Roueiss in the southern suburbs of Beirut with the knife still in his hand. “My conscience is clear,” he told the police. “I have killed to clean my honour.” Unsurprisingly, a public opinion poll showed that 90.7 per cent of the Lebanese public opposed “honour” crimes. Of the few who approved of them, several believed that it helped to limit interreligious marriage.

Syria reflects the pattern of Lebanon. While civil rights groups are demanding a stiffening of the laws against women-killers, government legislation only raised the term of imprisonment for men who kill female relatives for extramarital sex to two years. Among the most recent cases was that of Lubna, a 17-year-old living in Homs, murdered by her family because she fled to her sister’s house after refusing to marry a man they had chosen for her. They also believed – wrongly – that she was no longer a virgin.

Tribal feuds often provoke “honour” killings in Iran and Afghanistan. In Iran, for example, a governor’s official in the ethnic Arab province of Khuzestan stated in 2003 that 45 young women under the age of 20 had been murdered in “honour” killings in just two months, none of which brought convictions. All were slaughtered because of the girl’s refusal to agree to an arranged marriage, failing to abide by Islamic dress code or suspected of having contacts with men outside the family.

Through the dark veil of Afghanistan’s village punishments, we glimpse just occasionally the terror of teenage executions. When Siddiqa, who was only 19, and her 25-year-old fiancé Khayyam were brought before a Taliban-approved religious court in Kunduz province this month, their last words were: “We love each other, no matter what happens.” In the bazaar at Mulla Quli, a crowd – including members of both families – stoned to death first Siddiqa, then Khayyam.

A week earlier, a woman identified as Bibi Sanubar, a pregnant widow, was lashed a hundred times and then shot in the head by a Taliban commander. In April of last year, Taliban gunmen executed by firing squad a man and a girl in Nimruz for eloping when the young woman was already engaged to someone else. History may never disclose how many hundreds of women – and men – have suffered a similar fates at the hands of deeply traditional village families or the Taliban.

But the contagion of “honour” crimes has spread across the globe, including acid attacks on women in Bangladesh for refusing marriages. In one of the most terrible Hindu “honour” killings in India this year, an engaged couple, Yogesh Kumar and Asha Saini, were murdered by the 19-year-old bride-to-be’s family because her fiancée was of lower caste. They were apparently tied up and electrocuted to death.

A similar fate awaited 18-year-old Vishal Sharma, a Hindu Brahmin, who wanted to marry Sonu Singh, a 17- year-old Jat – an “inferior” caste which is usually Muslim. The couple were hanged and their bodies burned in Uttar Pradesh. Three years earlier, a New Delhi court had sentenced to death five men for killing another couple who were of the same sub-caste, which in the eyes of the local “caste council” made them brother and sister.

In Chechnya, Russia’s chosen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been positively encouraging men to kill for “honour”. When seven murdered women were found in Grozny, shot in the head and chest, Kadyrov announced – without any proof, but with obvious approval – that they had been killed for living “an immoral life”. Commenting on a report that a Chechen girl had called the police to complain of her abusive father, he suggested the man should be able to murder his daughter. “… if he doesn’t kill her, what kind of man is he? He brings shame on himself!”

And so to the “West”, as we like to call it, where immigrant families have sometimes brought amid their baggage the cruel traditions of their home villages: an Azeri immigrant charged in St Petersburg for hiring hitmen to kill his daughter because she “flouted national tradition” by wearing a miniskirt; near the Belgian city of Charleroi, Sadia Sheikh shot dead by her brother, Moussafa, because she refused to marry a Pakistani man chosen by her family; in the suburbs of Toronto, Kamikar Kaur Dhillon slashes his Punjabi daughter-in-law, Amandeep, across the throat because she wants to leave her arranged marriage, perhaps for another man. He told Canadian police that her separation would “disgrace the family name”.

And, of course, we should perhaps end this catalogue of crime in Britain, where only in the past few years have we ourselves woken to the reality of “honour” crimes; of Surjit Athwal, a Punjabi Sikh woman murdered on the orders of her London-based mother-in-law for trying to escape a violent marriage; of 15-year-old Tulay Goren, a Turkish Kurd from north London, tortured and murdered by her Shia Muslim father because she wished to marry a Sunni Muslim man; of Heshu Yones, 16, stabbed to death by her father in 2005 for going out with a Christian boy; of Caneze Riaz, burned alive by her husband in Accrington, along with their four children – the youngest 10 years old – because of their “Western ways”. Mohamed Riaz was a Muslim Pakistani from the North-West Frontier Province. He died of burns two days after the murders.

Scotland Yard long ago admitted it would have to review over a hundred deaths, some going back more than a decade, which now appear to have been “honour” killings.

These are just a few of the murders, a few names, a small selection of horror stories across the world to prove the pervasive, spreading infection of what must be recognised as a mass crime, a tradition of family savagery that brooks no merciful intervention, no state law, rarely any remorse.

Surjit Athwal

Murdered in 1998 by her in-laws on a trip to the Indian Punjab for daring to seek a divorce from an unhappy marriage

Du’a Khalil Aswad

Aged 17, she was stoned to death in Nineveh, Iraq, by a mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a man outside her tribe

Rand Abdel-Qader

The Iraqi 17-year-old was stabbed to death by her father two years ago after falling in love with a British soldier in Basra

Fakhra Khar

In 2001 in Karachi, her husband poured acid on her face, after she left him and returned to her mother’s home in the red-light district of the city

Mukhtaran Bibi

The 18-year-old was gang-raped by four men in a hut in the Punjab in 2002, while up to 100 men laughed and cheered outside

Heshu Yones

The 16-year-old was stabbed to death by her Muslim father Abdullah, in west London in 2002, because he disapproved of her Christian boyfriend

Tasleem Solangi

The Pakistani village girl, 17, was falsely accused of immorality and had dogs set on her as a punishment before she was shot dead by in-laws

Shawbo Ali Rauf

Aged 19, she was taken by her family to a picnic in Dokan, Iraq, and shot seven times after they had found an unfamiliar number on her phone

Tulay Goren

The 15-year-old Kurdish girl was killed in north London by her father because the family objected to her choice of husband

Banaz Mahmod Babakir Agha

The 20-year-old’s father and uncle murdered her in 2007, after she fell in love with a man her family did not want her to marry

Ayesha Baloch

Accused of having sexual relations with another man before she married, her husband slit her lip and nostril with a knife in Pakistan in 2006

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/
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Shaheed Bibi Ghazala Javed: Peshawar Pakistan – June 18/12

Shaheed Bibi Ghazala Javed was a renowned singer and a brave woman, who despite being in an extreme conservative social environment, was continuing to follow her glorious career that had earlier required for her to escape Taliban by moving from one area to another. As well, she was demanding a divorce from her influential and polygmous husband.

Pushto singer Ghazala Javed shot dead

PESHAWAR: A popular Pakistani singer who fled the Taliban to pursue her music career away from their repressive dictats was shot dead in the northwestern city of Peshawar, police said Tuesday.

Ghazala Javed, 24, was shot six times by gunmen as she left a beauty salon, although police do not believe the Taliban was responsible for her murder and said her ex-husband was a suspect in the case.

Her father, who was with her, was also killed, police said. “Two men on a motorbike sprayed bullets and fled leaving them in a pool of blood,” senior police officer Dilawar Bangash told AFP. She was shot six times and her father once in the head, Bangash said.

“We have registered a case and launched an investigation. The murder seems to be result of some internal dispute,” he added. Police official Imtiaz Khan said the ex-husband was suspected of involvement in the murders.

The singer had fled to Peshawar in 2009 to escape the then Taliban-dominated northwestern district of Swat as the army launched a sweeping offensive.

From 2007 to 2009, Taliban fighters controlled by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah effectively seized control of the district, terrorising people with murders, beheadings, attacks on girls’ schools and music shops. Singers and dancers were singled out in particular until the army reasserted control in July 2009, winning praise from the United States for eliminating an Islamist threat 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital Islamabad.

Javed sung in her native Pashto language and released more than two dozen albums that were popular among Pashto speakers in the northwest. She married businessman Jahangir Khan in 2010, but demanded a divorce after finding out he had another wife and because he tried to ban her from singing, the family said. It is rare for women in the deeply conservative northwest to solicit a divorce and under Islamic law men can have up to four wives at once.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-54932-Pushto-singer-Ghazala-Javed-shot-dead

Information pointed to by Ismat Shahjehan
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Violence by cop at Nairang Art Gallery: Curator attacked for wearing sleeveless

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious alarm and disgust at a policeman ‘raiding’ a renowned art gallery in Lahore

Lahore, August 03: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious alarm and disgust at a policeman ‘raiding’ a renowned art gallery in Lahore, beating the woman curator there and harassing others on the premises.

HRCP said in a statement: “HRCP is appalled by the vigilante actions of the Shadman Police Station House Officer (SHO), who visited the Nairang Art Gallery in Lahore on Tuesday, brutally assaulted the woman curator there, accusing her of running a place of fahashi, and harassed others present at the gallery. The SHO’s merciless beating of a woman is something that cannot be expected of any civilized human being and is all the more revolting because the offender is an officer of a force tasked with protecting people from the sort of excesses he committed. The policeman had no warrants, nor any legal authority to barge into the art gallery like he did along with a police party, which advised the curator to leave the room after her beating rather than intervening to save her from the assault.

Excesses by policemen are hardly an anomaly in Pakistan but since when have policemen assumed responsibility of the Taliban? HRCP sincerely hope that its revulsion and contempt for the policeman’s actions is shared by the Punjab government and hopes that a case would be promptly registered against the offender, and that he would be effectively prosecuted for his repulsive actions. Lack of due punishment for such uniformed vigilantes would only encourage others to follow suit. HRCP also urges the government to make a formal apology to the curator for the actions of a government agent.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson
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Status of World’s Women – Report 2011-2012

“Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012: In Pursuit of Justice”‏ by UN Women.

By Myra Imran

Raising numerous serious questions regarding lacunas in the prevalent justice systems around the world, the UN Women launched its first major report titled ‘Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012 — In Pursuit of Justice’ in Pakistan on Friday.

Presenting a comparative analysis of global statistics, the first major report following the organisation’s launch in early 2011, mentions that justice remains out of the reach of millions of the world’s women. It says Domestic violence is outlawed in 125 countries of the world but globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.

Laws based on custom or religion, which exist alongside state legislation, frequently restrict women’s rights within the family, in marriage, divorce and the right to inherit property. “Much has been achieved in the private and public spheres in the last century. Yet discrimination and gender injustice remain prevalent around the world.”

The report says that 117 countries have equal pay laws yet, in practice, women are still paid up to 30 per cent less than men in some countries and women still do more unpaid domestic and caring work than men in every region of the world.

It points out that globally, 53 per cent of working women — 600 million in total — are in vulnerable jobs, such as self-employment, domestic work or unpaid work for family businesses, which often lack the protection of labour laws.

Highlighting another such dimension, the report says that by 2011, at least 52 countries had made marital rape a criminal offence. And yet, over 2.6 billion women live in countries where it has not been explicitly criminalized.

It mentions that in countries where there have been steep increases in women’s representation in Parliaments, progressive laws on women’s rights have often followed yet there are still less than 30 per cent of women in parliament in the vast majority of countries. It further mentions that donors spend US$4.2 billion annually on aid for justice reform, but only 5 per cent of this spending specifically targets women and girls.

The report also recognises the positive progress made and says that 139 countries and territories now guarantee gender equality in their constitutions but it also shows that too often, women continue to experience injustice, violence and inequality in their home and working lives.

To ensure justice becomes a reality for all women, UN Women calls on governments to repeal laws that discriminate against women, support innovative justice services, put women on the frontline of justice delivery and invest in justice system that can respond to women’s need.

It stresses the need to ensure that legislation protects women from violence and inequality in the home and the workplace and demands innovative justice services such as one-stop shops, legal aid and specialised courts, to ensure women can access the justice to which they are entitled.

The report says that across the board, existing laws are too often inadequately enforced, the report finds. Many women shrink away from reporting crimes due to social stigma and weak justice systems. The costs and practical difficulties of seeking justice can be prohibitive — from travel to a distant court, to paying for expensive legal advice. The result is high drop-out rates in cases where women seek redress, especially on gender-based violence.

The thought provoking and colourful launching of report was attended by a large number of women right activists, representatives of civil society organisations, lawyer’s associations and law enforcing agencies. Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza was the chief guest on the occasion.

Others who spoke at the event included Federal Ombudsperson for Harassment Act Mussarat Hilali, President Lawyers for Human Rights Zia Awan, AIG Islamabad Ehsan Sadiq and Country Director UN Women Alice Shakleford.

The speakers stressed the need for collaborative efforts to create an enabling environment for women in pursuit justice. They pointed out that enough legislation has been formulated in Pakistan for women in past few decades but the real issue is the effective implementation of these laws. They also demanded elimination of discriminatory laws.

Besides formal speeches made by the guests, the event included an interactive session with the stakeholders and poetry recitation by UN Gender Expert Salman Asif who read some of the very fine verses by eminent social worker Bilqees Edhi urging everyone to feel for women in distress and help them.

Another unique feature was the audio of inspiring stories of women survivors played for the guests. These women faced extreme forms of violence against women but were brave enough to fight back and become a role model for others.

Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza said that no system can claim to be democratic and participatory if it fails to include and address the issues concerning its women. She said that women’s pursuit for justice stretches back beyond recorded time to the myths and legends told by ancient seers in all cultures and civilisations.

“Societies were always hesitant in accepting them on a par with their men. It is high time that we make our society realize that gender roles, inequities and power imbalances are not a ‘natural’ result of biological differences, but determined by the systems and cultures in which we live.”

She highlighted the efforts of Pakistan People’s Part to bring women in the lime light at every level. She said that in the last three years of its 5-year tenure, the women Parliamentarians ran 60 per cent of the business in the National Assembly and the government has passed 77 bills in which more than a dozen relate to women and children.

“Laws hold a critical balance in shaping societies although they alone cannot bring a change in mindsets. No government, no matter how democratic in nature, can bring about a revolution on its own if it is not backed by a strong and committed public opinion,” she opined.

She said that Pakistan will hold the seventh meeting of the Women Speakers of Parliaments around the world in November this year, where the women speakers will focus on making parliaments more gender sensitive. At the Saarc Speakers Conference in Delhi, she has also proposed the creation of a Saarc Parliament which could allow the Parliamentarians of the region to jointly address issues of social injustice, the speeding up of the MDGs and the realization of an equity-based gender-balanced mutually beneficial Saarc community.

Saturday, July 30, 2011
National Commission on the Status of Women-Pakistan
Government of Pakistan
Phone: +92-51-9224875,9209885
comms@ncsw.gov.pk
www.ncsw.gov.pk

Rape of a Christian woman by an officer of Inter Services Intelligence Agency‏

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-085-2011
28 April 2011

PAKISTAN: A Christian woman was raped for four days; the rapist identified himself as a senior officer in the Inter Services Intelligence Agency

ISSUES: Abduction; illegal detention; rape; violence against women; religious minorities

SEND AN APPEAL LETTER

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a 24-year-old Christian woman was abducted and raped for a period of four days in different cities by a person who identified himself as a serving Major in the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) agency which is the intelligence wing of the Pakistan Army. A First Information Report was filed but the police have been unable to arrest him. After releasing the victim at the Faisalabad, Punjab province, railway station he threatened her that if she told anybody about the rape he would involve her parents in a bomb blast case.

Please send an urgent appeal to the authorities to arrest the rapist and initiate an enquiry into the involvement of an army officer in the abduction and rape of a Christian woman.

CASE NARRATIVE
Ms. Sehar Naz, aged 24, from Christian Town, Faisalabad, Punjab province, works as a sales officer in the State Life Insurance, a government insurance company. She was going with her area manager and sales manager in their car to attend a conference on 14 April 2011. As the car reached the circuit road near the Serena Hotel crossing a person in a black shirt and trousers stopped the car and introduced himself as Arif Atif Rana, a Major in the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). He was standing with a traffic police official and asked the occupants of the car to show their identity papers. As he received the identity card of Sehar Naz he told the insurance officers that a call has been received by him against Sehar and that he wanted to take her for investigation. The insurance officers tried to prevent this but he threatened to kill them for interfering with his official work.

The insurance officers quickly lodged a police report on the same day at Civil Lines Police Station, Faisalabad, that she was abducted by an army officer who claimed that he was a Major in the ISI. The police lodged the FIR (First Information Report) with number of 454/11, but, as is common, did not pursue the case because of the involvement of the ISI.

Major Rana took her on his scooter to different places and then to his house in Samanabad, Faisalabad. He kept her at that location for two days and then took her to Lahore, the capital of Punjab province and raped her in his custody on each of these four days. On 18 April he dropped her at the Faisalabad railway station and threatened her that if she told anyone about the rape he would arrest her parents in a bomb blast case. He went on to say that it is easy to book Christians in any case.

When she was released her parents and the Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice & Peace Faisalabad office took the victim to record her statement before the police, (which was recorded on 19 April) and according to Ms. Naz the rapist was from the ISI and claimed to be of the rank of Major. The police then issued a certificate for a medical examination which proved that she had been sexually assaulted. She again confirmed to the police investigation officer, Assistant Sub Inspector Basheer that Major Atif Arif Rana had kidnapped and raped her at gun point but the police have made no move to arrest him.

SUGGESTED ACTION
Please send the urgent appeal by clicking blue button and sending faxes to the authorities calling for the prompt action in the case of rape of a Christian woman by a Major in the Inter Service Intelligence agency, the ISI, for four days at gun point while he kept her in illegal detention. Please also urge them to initiate an enquiry into the case. Medical treatment and compensation should be afforded to the victim for her rehabilitation.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Violence against Women and Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment calling for their intervention into this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here:
SEND AN APPEAL LETTER

Baseer Naweed
Senior Researcher
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Unit 701A Westley Square,
48 Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong,
Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR China
baseer.naweed@ahrc.asia
Tel: (852) 2698 6339 Ext 113
Fax: (852) 2698 6367
Mob: (852)6402 5943

www.humanrights.asia
www.humanrights.asia/countries/pakistan
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