6.14.2005

Free Mukhtaran Bibi!!

Apart from everything else in this story that will keep me awake nights, I want to know why the President's people didn't stop him from receiving the Pakistani official, or at a minimum see that he brought up the subject in the official meeting. (Once again, I apologize for the fact that you have to log in to see the story, but it is worthwhile.)
(Ok, I'll excerpt the salient details, trying to avoid copyright infringement in so doing.)

  • Mukhtaran Bibi 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.
  • Ms. Mukhtaran used her compensation money to start two schools in her village, one for boys and the other for girls. She enrolled the children of her attackers in the schools, to show even-handedness.
  • Ms. Mukhtaran has also become a ferocious spokeswoman against honor killings, rapes and acid attacks on women.
  • A group of Pakistani-Americans invited Ms. Mukhtaran to visit the U.S. starting this Saturday (see www.4anaa.org).
  • In reaction to this, in order to prevent the visit and any further "embarrassment" to Pakistan, Ms. Mukhtaran was placed under house arrest last Thursday, and her phone line was cut. In addition, a court released her rapists, 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.)
  • When she continued to use her cell phone to alert outsiders to her plight, she was arrested and [reportedly] taken to Islamabad, where reports have it that she was harangued for "embarrassing" and "shaming" Pakistan with her public displays, and informed that President Pervez Musharraf himself was very angry with her. Subsequently, she was led sobbing to detention at a secret location, where she remains. She is barred from contacting anyone, including her lawyer. Further, she has been forbidden to leave Pakistan.
  • On Friday, just as all this was happening, President Bush received Pakistan's foreign minister in the White House and praised President Musharraf's "bold leadership."

Allowing for the possibility that the events detailed above happened while GWB was meeting with the foreign minister, days have now gone by, and it is time for a polite but firm inquiry to be made into this matter. We don't hesitate to intervene in foreign affairs at will; this is a situation where conscience dictates that we insert ourselves once more. The Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Women is also making a ruckus; join in and do what you can. As dangerous a place as the Western world can be for women, there can be no words to describe the horror of what it must be to live in a society wherein women have no protections under law.

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