KARACHI, PAKISTAN — Kainat Soomro is a 17-year-old Pakistani girl who has become a local celebrity of sorts in her battle for justice in the Pakistani courts, a daring move for a woman of any age in this country, let alone a teenager.
She is fighting to get justice for a gang rape that she insists happened four years ago in Mehar, a small town in Pakistan.
We first met her in the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. A colorful traditional Pakistani shawl covered her head. Her father sat next to her as she recounted the 2007 incident.
“I was walking home from my school and I went to the store to buy a toy for my niece,” she said, staring at the floor of the office. “While I was looking at things a guy pressed a handkerchief on my nose. I fainted and was kidnapped. Then four men gang raped me.”
As she shared details of her days in captivity and multiple rapes, she kept repeating, “I want justice, I will not stop until I get justice.” After three days, she was finally able to escape she said. As she spoke, her father gently tapped her head. He said he tried to get Kainat’s alleged rapists arrested, but instead he was rebuffed by the police.
According to the Kainat family’s account, the tribal elders declared her kari, (which literally means black female), for losing her virginity outside marriage.
In Pakistan, women and men who have illicit relationships or women who lose their virginity before marriage are at risk of paying with their lives.
“These are matters of honor and the leaders call a jirga and they declare that the woman or the couple should be killed,” said Abdul Hai, a veteran field officer for the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan. These acts of violence are most commonly labeled as “honor killings.”
The most recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted that in 2009 roughly 46 percent of all female murders in Pakistan that year were in the name of “honor.” The report noted that a total of 647 incidences of “honor killings” were reported by the Pakistani press. However, experts say that actual incidences of “honor killings” in Pakistan are much higher and never get reported to the police because they are passed off by the families as suicides.
Kainat said that despite the pressures her family refused to kill her.
“It is the tradition, but if the family doesn’t permit it, then it won’t happen. My father, my brother, my mom didn’t allow it,” she said.
And that defiance has left the family fearing for their lives. The family’s new home in Karachi has been attacked a number of times.
But, according to Abdul Hai, Kainat is lucky: “The woman or the girl usually gets killed and the man gets away,” he said. “Over 70 percent of the murdered victims are women and only 30 percent of victims of honor killings are male.”
In Karachi, Kainat and her family are now sharing one room in a run-down apartment block, and they have to rely on charities to help them pay for food.
“We go hungry many nights,” said Kainat’s older sister.
But their fight might never pay off. A local judge has already ruled against Kainat in the case. “There is no corroborative evidence available on record. The sole testimony of the alleged rape survivor is not sufficient,” the judge said in a written decision.
Another problem is that material evidence is usually not collected in rape cases in Pakistan since the police rarely believe rape victims and therefore don’t order rape kits in a timely manner.
Without medical tests to corroborate her story, it remains Kainat’s word against the alleged rapists. But even having lost her case at the local court, Kainat insists, “I am not giving up, I will take this all the way to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”
Muslims need to be protected from reality; we can’t have them learning about things that might make them turn away from their bullshit religion.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani authorities on Friday put seven major websites, including Google and YouTube, under watch for containing material deemed offensive to Muslims, officials said.
The Ministry of Information Technology is also blocking at least 17 links on Youtube and other websites for showing “blasphemous material.”
“YouTube, Yahoo, Amazon, Bing, MSN, Hotmail and Google will be monitored with relation to anti-Islamic contents,” said Khurram Mehran, spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
The companies that own the affected sites are Google Inc., Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon.com Inc..
But another official also made it clear the government had no intention of blocking major websites as they were important sources of education.
The move to impose monitoring was undertaken three days after a court in the eastern city of Bahawalpur ordered the government to block YouTube and eight other sites in response to a petition arguing they were showing material “against the fundamental principles of Islam.
The next hearing of the case is fixed for Monday. It is second time in a month that Pakistan has imposed such restrictions on internet.
Last month, authorities acting on a court decision blocked social network Facebook, YouTube and others sites for almost two weeks amid anger over a page that encouraged users to post images of the Prophet Mohammad.
BLASPHEMY A SENSITIVE ISSUE
Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims, who constitute the overwhelming majority in Pakistan.
Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. Five people were killed in protests in 2006 over publication of cartoons deemed blasphemous by Muslims in Danish newspapers a year earlier.
However, Latif Khosa, adviser to the prime minister on information technology, said the government had already been monitoring websites for any material prejudicial to “security of Pakistan and Islamic injunctions.”
Khosa said the government could not block major search engines and websites as they were major sources of information and education.
“The constitution of Pakistan ensures access to knowledge, information and education to all citizens of Pakistan. These are the basic rights of the people of Pakistan and Internet is a major source of it,” Khosa told Reuters.
Courts cannot violate those rights nor can any law be put in place to do so, he said.
“Many students are calling us and saying that they could not complete their higher studies if any step is taken to block these search engines,” Khosa said.
It seems that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is under investigation by Pakistani legal authorities for violation of that country’s anti-blasphemy laws surrounding the recent Draw Muhammed contest.
The penalty for violating the Pakistani anti-blasphemy law can be death.
Section 295-C of the Pakistani penal code reads: “Use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet, whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine.”
The Draw Muhammed Contest was started in response, in part, to Comedy Central’s censoring of an episode of “South Park” that dealt with violent Muslim reaction over the depiction of the Prophet Muhammed in the West. A Danish newspaper and cartoonist have also been under violent threat because of a cartoon depicting Mohammed with an exploding turban.
The idea of the Draw Muhammed Contest was that it would be a response to violent, Islamic extremists to show that freedom of expression in the West applies to everyone and every subject. Muslims do not get to tell non-Muslims what to do and what to say.
It appears that Pakistani law enforcement disagrees with this sentiment. The Pakistanis actually expect Interpol to arrange for the arrest of Mark Zuckerberg and his handing over to the Pakistani authorities for trial and presumed punishment. A complaint to the UN General Assembly is also being contemplated.
The situation seems to derive in large part from cultural insensitivity on the part of Pakistanis and many other Muslims. Muslims may feel somewhat sensitive about depictions of their Prophet, especially unflattering ones. This has been known since the Salman Rushdie affair. On the other hand, Muslims need to realize that the right to express oneself, on any subject, with any point of view, is held as sacred in the West as Islam is considered in their own countries. Religion and the religious are scrutinized, criticized, and ridiculed frequently. This applies to all religions, not just Islam.
The difference is that Christians, Jews, and so on seem to be secure enough in their particular faiths that any assaults on them get relatively mild complaints in response. Not so with Muslims. It seems that many Muslims just want to kill people for disdaining Islam. This not only demonstrates a somewhat shaky religious faith, but also tends to reinforce the image of the Muslims as violent extremists.
Coddling or giving into this attitude, as Comedy Central did, is somewhat counter-productive. Self-censorship only enables violent extremists and ensures that the threats of violence will continue.
Thanks to JT Hundley for the link
A court in Pakistan has ordered the authorities temporarily to block the Facebook social networking site.
The order came when a petition was filed after the site held a competition featuring caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
The petition, filed by a lawyers’ group called the Islamic Lawyers’ Movement, said the contest was “blasphemous”.
A message on the competition’s information page said it was not “trying to slander the average Muslim”.
“We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Muhammad depictions that we’re not afraid of them,” a statement on the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” said.
“They can’t take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us into silence.”
The information section of the page said that it was set up by a Seattle-based cartoonist, Molly Norris.
It contains caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and characters from other religions, including Hinduism and Christianity, as well as comments both critical and supportive of Islam.
Publications of similar cartoons in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked angry protests in Muslim countries – five people were killed in Pakistan.
Already the Pakistani press has reported protests against Facebook on Wednesday by journalists outside parliament in Islamabad, while various Islamic parties are also reported to be organising demonstrations.
Correspondents say that the internet is uncensored in Pakistan but the government monitors content by routing all traffic through a central exchange.
Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court ordered the department of communications to block the website until 31 May, and to submit a written reply to the petition by that date.
An official told the court that parts of the website that were holding the competition had been blocked, reports the BBC Urdu service’s Abdul Haq in Lahore.
But the petitioner said a partial blockade of a website was not possible and that the entire link had to be blocked.
The lawyers’ group says Pakistan is an Islamic country and its laws do not allow activities that are “un-Islamic” or “blasphemous”.
The judge also directed Pakistan’s foreign ministry to raise the issue at international level.
In the past, Pakistan has often blocked access to pornographic sites and sites with anti-Islamic content.
It has deemed such material as offensive to the political and security establishment of the country, says the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad.
In 2007, the government banned the YouTube site, allegedly to block material offensive to the government of Pervez Musharraf.
The action led to widespread disruption of access to the site for several hours. The ban was later lifted.
ISLAMABAD â€” Their only offence was to try to marry the men they loved. Their tribe, however, saw it as an affront to its honour. The three teenage girls were kidnapped, taken to a remote area, and shot. Then, still alive, they were dragged bleeding to a ditch, where they were covered in earth and stones, suffocating the remaining life out of them.
Although so-called honour killings are not unusual, burying the victims alive is extreme even by Pakistani tribal standards. The brutal treatment meted out to the girls, aged between 16 and 18, was meant not only to revive the respect of the Umrani tribe, but serve as a warning.
“A proper burial is considered very important. Depriving them [the girls] of an honourable burial is to make sure others learn the lesson,” said Samar Minallah, a human-rights activist who investigated the killings. “But never in Pakistan’s history have we seen the perpetrators of such crimes punished.”
Under tribal tradition, marriages are carefully arranged by elders. Marrying without permission is considered an insult to the honour of the tribe.
Although news of the gruesome killings has only just filtered out from Baluchistan, a remote and lawless province, 1Â½ months has passed since the girls’ deaths and no one has been arrested. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent organization, said that for a month the local police refused its attempts to register a criminal complaint over the case.
A cover-up is suspected. According to several accounts, the brother of a provincial minister, a member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, oversaw the killings, and the girls were abducted by a group of men driving Baluchistan government vehicles. Local grandees officiate over tribal “justice,” the same notables who are typically members of parliament in rural Pakistan.
In Pakistan’s national parliament, the killings were defended by several male legislators from Baluchistan. A senator from Baluchistan, Israrullah Zehri, said on Friday that “this action was carried out according to tribal traditions,” a view backed up by others, who attacked a woman senator who had raised the case.
“These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them,” Mr. Zehri added over the weekend. “Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.”
The girls were killed in the Naseerabad district of Baluchistan. Human Rights Watch, the international campaigning group, has conducted its own probe.
“This is a heinous criminal offence,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, of Human Rights Watch. “We have corroborated it and cross-corroborated it, but the second the police admit it happened, it would trigger an investigation.”