Nicholas Kristoff, NY Times...
Last fall I wrote about Mukhtaran Bibi, a woman who was sentenced by a tribal council in Pakistan to be gang-raped because of an infraction supposedly committed by her brother. Four men raped Ms. Mukhtaran, then village leaders forced her to walk home nearly naked in front of a jeering crowd of 300.
Ms. Mukhtaran was supposed to have committed suicide. Instead, with the backing of a local Islamic leader, she fought back and testified against her persecutors. Six were convicted.
Then Ms. Mukhtaran, who believed that the best way to overcome such abuses was through better education, used her compensation money to start two schools in her village, one for boys and the other for girls. She went out of her way to enroll the children of her attackers in the schools, showing that she bore no grudges.
That was the beginning, in a nutshell.
But there is a problem. It happenend in Pakistan. Pakistan is officially a US ally.
Officials in Pakistan don't like what this woman is doing. They really don't like it at all.
On Thursday, the authorities put Ms. Mukhtaran under house arrest - to stop her from speaking out. In phone conversations in the last few days, she said that when she tried to step outside, police pointed their guns at her. To silence her, the police cut off her land line.
After she had been detained, a court ordered her attackers released, putting her life in jeopardy. That happened on a Friday afternoon, when the courts do not normally operate, and apparently was a warning to Ms. Mukhtaran to shut up. Instead, Ms. Mukhtaran continued her protests by cellphone. But at dawn yesterday the police bustled her off, and there's been no word from her since. Her cellphone doesn't answer.
The Tom Watson blog has been following this story from the beginning.
He has the latest coverage and great pictures.
This is a story that is not on the national radar, unfortunately, but it should be. It makes me wish I were more than one old guy with a low-traffic blog.
Go read and learn...
The Guardian is also covering the story.
President Pervez Musharraf is particularly keen on promoting a "soft" image of Pakistan abroad as proof that his policy of "enlightened moderation" is succeeding. But try as he might, the chocolate on offer often has a bitterly hard centre.
This obsession with external image took a sinister turn last weekend when the government placed Mukhtaran Bibi on its notorious exit control list - an effective prohibition from leaving the country.
The move was shocking because Ms Mukhtaran is a genuine Pakistani heroine. Three years ago, the uneducated Punjabi villager was gang-raped on the orders of her local council of elders, who held that the vile attack was suitable retribution for a sex crime allegedly committed by her 12-year-old brother. That charge later turned out to be hogwash.
Instead of keeping quiet, Ms Mukhtaran confronted her accusers in court, and six men were sentenced to death. In a country in which most rape victims have to produce four witnesses to secure a conviction, her tear-drenched testimony was practically revolutionary.
But this year, the case started to unravel. In March, an appeal court overturned the convictions of the six men. Furious, Ms Mukhtaran launched a supreme court challenge and vigorously publicised her plight in the international media - which was where the ham-fisted government stepped in.
Officially, it said the exit control order was for her own good. "It is a security measure," one official said. "We want her case to be processed and resolved first," the junior interior minister explained.
But the real reason, it would seem, was to prevent Ms Mukhtaran from attending a human rights meeting in the US where she could presumably have highlighted the scandal of an embarrassingly slanted judicial system.
Another one of those MSM conspiracies (international conspiracy, yet!) to make prominent leaders look bad, don't you know.
Since last night you (and yes, it's you, not me) have gotten links and coverage on more than 40 blogs. We can do more; we can get it into the talking head slipstream, and onto some larger blogs and sites. So please, take this story and run with it - to me, the outcome of Mukhtaran Bibi's story says everything about what we really believe about freedom.
And please read the blogs of these terrific colleagues, who are getting out in front on the compelling Bibi story:
CommonSenseDesk [here and here]
The Sawpit [here]
Killing Time Bein' Lazy [here]
J.D. Lasica [here]
Republic of Dogs [here]
Balloon Juice [here]
The News Blog [here]
The River [here]
Lance Mannion [here]
Ezra Klein [here]
The Ethical Werewolf [here]
Brilliant at Breakfast [here]
The One True Tami [here]
Rhodian Attic [here]
Random Ravings [here]
Habakkuk's Watchpost [here]
Preposterous Universe [here]
UK Political Blog [here]
This Space for Rent [here]
Echidne of the Snakes [here]
Kim's Blog [here]
Gung Ho! [here]
Cate McQuaid [here]
One single child left behind [here]
Hairmonster Times [here]
No Right Turn [here]
Joe Schulz [here]
There's more. Maybe the story will get legs, as they say, after all.
We can hope. Bookmark the Tom Watson Blog.
Frankly, I feel like I'm in pretty good company here.
The State Department says she's free to travel and a spokesman said the U.S. put pressure on its ally to allow Ms. Bibi to visit the United States. If this is true, I retract some of my angrier opening statements of last night (that's for Alva and Fitz, who called me on the vitriol) but I stick with those condemning the types of allies we do business with in the name of "freedom," and the decision of the Bush Administration to stick with Musharraf.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Nicholas Kristoff, NY Times...
Posted by Hoots at 6:29 AM