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S Asia With Help, Afghan ‘Honor’ Victim Inches Back

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    By ALISSA J. RUBIN

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/w...buck-tradition-in-afghan-honor-attack.html?hp

    JALALABAD, Afghanistan — It is doubly miraculous that the young woman named Gul Meena is alive. After she was struck by an ax 15 times, slashing her head and face so deeply that it exposed her brain, she held on long enough to reach medical care and then, despite the limitations of what the doctors could do, clung to life.

    A nurse at a hospital in Jalalabad with Gul Meena, who was struck by an ax.
    “We had no hope she would survive,” said Dr. Zamiruddin, a neurosurgeon at the Nangarhar Regional Medical Center in the eastern city of Jalalabad who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. After she was brought in, he worked for more than six hours in the hospital’s rudimentary operating theater, gently reinserting her brain and stitching her many wounds.

    For weeks afterward, she was often unconscious, always uncommunicative and, but for the hospital staff, utterly alone, with no family members to care for her. That is because, if the accounts from her home province are true, she is an adulterer: though already married, she ran away with another man, moving south until her family caught up with them.

    Locals say that the man who wielded the ax against her, and also killed the man with her, was most likely her brother.

    That she reached a hospital and received care at all is the second part of the miracle: the villagers, doctors and nurses who helped her were bucking a deeply ingrained tradition that often demands death for women who dishonor their families.

    Such “honor killings” of women exist in a number of cultures, but in Afghanistan they are firmly anchored by Pashtunwali, an age-old tribal code prevalent in the ethnic Pashtun areas of the country that the government and rights advocates have fought for years to override with a national civil legal system. This year, six such killings have been reported in Afghanistan’s far east alone, more than in each of the past two years, and for every one that comes to light, human rights advocates believe a dozen or more remain hidden.

    Gul Meena’s story, as best it can be pieced together from relatives, tribal elders and others, gives insight into that deeply entrenched tribal culture. But it is also a story about a society struggling to come to terms with a different way of thinking about women.

    The Americans and Europeans have put a special emphasis on programs to help Afghan women and raise awareness of their rights. Now, as the Western money and presence are dwindling, women’s advocates fear that even the limited gains will erode and a more tribal and Taliban culture will prevail, especially in the south and east of the country, where Pashtun tribal attitudes toward women are strongly held.

    It is a credit to many people — villagers, doctors, the police, rights advocates — that they chose to help Gul Meena, overcoming centuries of distaste for dealing with so-called moral crimes. The doctors at the Nangarhar Regional Medical Center who first treated her and cared for her for weeks were aware of her likely transgressions and chose to ignore them. However, the doctors, who say Gul Meena is about 18, were also bewildered about what to do with her.

    “She has no one; no mother has come, no father, no one from her tribe has come,” said Dr. Abdul Shakoor Azimi, the hospital’s medical director, as he stood at the foot of her bed looking at her. “What is the solution? Even the government, the police, even the Women’s Affairs Ministry, they are not coming here to follow up and visit the patient.”

    A patient in an Afghan hospital without a family member is a neglected soul. Most hospitals are so impoverished that they offer only the bed itself and limited medical care. Gul Meena lay in her own urine when a reporter first visited her because no relative was there to change her sheets. Hospital staff members were able to tend to her sporadically, but they are overstretched. Without a relative, the patient has no one to pay for drugs, drips, needles or food, no one to bring fresh clothes.

    Dr. Azimi manages the hospital’s Zakat fund, a charitable collection that all the physicians contribute to, and for the first three weeks of Gul Meena’s care, the fund and individual doctors paid for everything.

    This year, six such killings have been reported in Afghanistan’s far east alone, more than in each of the past two years.

    Many women are not so fortunate and lie in unmarked graves in Afghanistan’s mountains and deserts, but as the culture urbanizes and women begin to consider marrying for love, families and tribal codes are being tested.



    “As the numbers of these moral cases increase, the severity of punishment decreases,” said Ahmad Gul Wasiq, a professor of theology at Jalalabad University, who also counsels families when there are marriage problems and who had heard about Gul Meena’s case.

    Gul Meena first arrived in the area, in a village called Kandi Bagh in a rural stretch of Nangarhar, about two months ago, traveling with a man named Qari Zakir. The villagers asked few questions, although the two had traveled south from Kunar Province with just a single bag. That is hardly the profile of a married couple hoping to set up housekeeping in a new place.

    “Everybody avoids such cases, and doesn’t want to get involved in others’ troubles,” said Hikmat Azimi, 27, who lives in Kandi Bagh and works as a teacher at a nearby agricultural institute.

    The last time anyone saw Mr. Zakir was about a week after their arrival, on the night before he was killed. He was seen buying a large bag of fruit, it seemed in honor of Gul Meena’s brother. He had turned up a few days earlier, according to villagers’ accounts related by Col. Nasir Sulaimanzai, the head of the Nangarhar police investigative division. Her father had also come but then left, said Mr. Azimi, the villager.

    The next morning, a distant relative of Mr. Zakir’s who lived in the area knocked on the couple’s door. When no one answered, he climbed over the wall that surrounds most Afghan homes and was met by a scene of carnage: Mr. Zakir lay on a bed, blood clotted black around his neck, his head all but severed. Gul Meena lay on a separate bed bleeding profusely. Her brother had vanished.

    “I shivered when I saw it,” said Mr. Azimi, who was one of the villagers called in to help. He and others borrowed a car and drove her to the hospital in Jalalabad.

    For days as Gul Meena lay in the hospital, government entities in Jalalabad held meetings and discussed what to do with her.

    Her situation was not helped as people learned more specifics. According to villagers and tribal elders as well as her relatives in Kunar Province and just over the border in Chitral State in Pakistan, Gul Meena was married, as was Qari Zakir. So the couple had broken fundamental moral codes as well as Afghan law.

    According to Gul Meena’s relatives, her family moved to kill her in part because of pressure from her husband’s family.

    “Her husband’s family came to them and said, ‘If you don’t do this thing, we will come after you,’ ” said a close relative of Gul Meena who asked not to be named because the issue is so delicate. “Her mother agreed to let them kill her in order to protect her sons.”

    The provincial council, with its overwhelmingly male membership and many people from traditional backgrounds, seemed paralyzed. “We have some tribal customs and provisions that are tough for females,” said Mufti Moin Muin Shah, the chairman of the Nangarhar provincial council, saying he favored following Shariah law, which would have required a trial. He said that maybe only 1 in 20 of his constituents would agree with him — and that the rest would embrace the swift, brutal Pashtun tribal law.

    Colonel Sulaimanzai, the provincial police official, was recently assigned here from Kabul, and he sees the tribal code as the root of the problem in a case where Afghan civil law should prevail.

    “What is destroying us is this useless, unofficial justice, these tribal jirgas. The tribal elders, the jirgas, always violate the provisions of the law,” he said. “Many things in this case need investigation: why did she run away from her husband’s house? Maybe he was old, maybe he was impotent, maybe he didn’t feed her,” he added. “They should bring her to the court. We have laws in this country.”

    One of the few female members of the provincial council that weighed in on Gul Meena’s fate, Angaza Shinwari, insisted that the woman had also been failed by the government and other agencies: “We have lots of NGOs operating in this country and spending a lot of money; how can they not have someone to take care of her?” she said, referring to nongovernmental organizations. “Our Women’s Affairs Ministry office has a lot of employees. Why can’t they send someone to stay with her in the hospital?”

    For their part, officials with the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs said they were unwilling to move Gul Meena to a shelter, in part because of her continuing medical needs but also because of security concerns. Her attacker is still at large, and the police say they believe he had slipped over the nearby border into Pakistan to avoid arrest.

    “What if something bad had happened to her, who would have been held responsible for that?” said Anisa Umrani, the provincial head of the women’s ministry office, referring to the common situation in which vengeful relatives try to drag girls from shelters and kill them. “We do have problems dealing with moral crimes. We are scared of dealing with such issues. We are facing threats and danger while dealing with these cases.”

    Ultimately it was an Afghan-American human rights organization, Women for Afghan Women, that arranged to move Gul Meena from Jalalabad to a safer, better supplied hospital in Kabul, and the organization has paid for 24-hour care, underscoring the crucial importance of the West in supporting women here. She is now physically far better, able to speak, but not to remember what happened to her.

    “Things are changing, but they are changing slowly,” said Manizha Naderi, who runs the organization that is now caring for Gul Meena. “We’re trying to change the culture, and that takes a long time.
     
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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    There was a related link to the original post describing how the debate about honor killing is playing out in India. This is from the blog India Ink.

    Debating the Death Sentence for ‘Honor’ Killings
    By NIHARIKA MANDHANA

    http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/08/debating-the-death-sentence-for-honor-killings/?ref=asia


    Five people from Delhi were sentenced to death on Friday for the “honor killing” of a couple, the latest in a series of death penalty judgments in India for the murder of young people who wish to marry outside their caste or religious group.

    The victims, who belonged to different castes and hoped to get married, were reportedly tied with ropes and beaten with sticks and pipes before being electrocuted to death in 2010.

    “Such cruel and barbaric acts cannot be allowed to take place in developed metropolitan cities,” the sessions judge, Ramesh Kumar Singhal, said while sentencing.

    So-called honor killings take place in many parts of India, particularly in the northern states of Haryana, Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where caste continues to be a decisive factor in marriage. Young men and women who violate the traditional rules that prohibit marriage outside their own castes and religious communities are regularly ostracized, tortured and sometimes even murdered by members of their family, village or community. On some occasions, self-appointed caste councils, called khap panchayats, pass diktats ordering such attacks, claiming they hope to protect the honor of their communities.

    In recent years, India’s highest court has taken a strong position against this practice. “There is nothing honorable in such killings,” the Supreme Court said in 2006, “and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment.”

    Last year, the court went one step further and prescribed the death sentence to punish those guilty of honor killings, saying it was time to “stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation.”

    “All persons who are planning to perpetrate honor killings should know that the gallows await them,” the court said.

    But not all institutions in India agree with the court’s stance. In a report released in August this year, India’s Law Commission, an advisory body of legal experts, criticized the court’s directive, saying that the death sentence in India is to be used “only in very exceptional and rare cases,” when “aggravating and mitigating circumstances” are found.

    The commission found that since the decision was given, the lower courts of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi had sentenced almost all accused in cases of honor killings to death. Disapproving of this trend, the commission said that each case needed to be judged on its own facts and circumstances and criticized what it called the Supreme Court’s “blanket direction” to give the death penalty in all instances of honor killings.

    “No hard and fast rule can be laid down,” the report said, in sharp contrast to the court’s decision prescribing the death penalty for honor killings committed “for whatever reason.”

    In the 2011 case decided by the Supreme Court, a man strangled his daughter to death for having a relationship against his will. The court said that if a person is unhappy with the behavior of a relative or a member of his caste, “the maximum he can do is to cut off social relations,” but he “cannot take the law into his own hands by committing violence or giving threats of violence.”

    India has retained the death penalty, but since the 1980s this extreme form of punishment has been used only in the “rarest of rare” cases. Statistics show that even where the death penalty is given, execution is uncommon. According to Amnesty International’s recent data, 435 people were sentenced to death in India between 2007 and 2011, but none have been hanged.

    Honor killings, which have been under intense media scrutiny, now fall within the “rarest of rare” category. In a bid to combat the practice more effectively, the government began considering various legal proposals in 2009, including an amendment to the country’s penal code to explicitly mention honor killings. The Law Commission, tasked with evaluating this proposal, advised against it, saying the amendment would cause “interpretational difficulties.”

    Instead, the Law Commission proposed a law to ban the now infamous “khap panchayats,” which are different from the country’s gram panchayats, or local self-governments. The bodies of community elders have been called “undemocratic” by the government, and the report labels them a “pernicious practice.” “Often young couples who fall in love have to seek shelter in the police lines or protection homes to avoid the wrath of kangaroo courts,” the report said.

    The proposed law seeks to prohibit any group from gathering “to deliberate on, or condemn” any legal marriage, “on the basis that the marriage has dishonored the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute to the family, village or locality.”

    The intention of the law, the report said, is to “curb the social evil of caste councils or panchayats” that endanger the “life and liberty of young persons.”
     
  4. aristotle

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    'Abdullah b. Buraida reported on the authority of his father that Ma'iz b. Malik al-Aslami came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Allah's Messenger, I have wronged myself ; I have committed adultery and I earnestly desire that you should purify me. He turned him away. On the following day, he (Ma'iz) again came to him and said: Allah's Messenger, I have committed adultery. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) turned him away for the second time, and sent him to his people saying: Do you know if there is anything wrong with his mind. They denied of any such thing in him and said: We do not know him but as a wise good man among us, so far as we can judge. He (Ma'iz) came for the third time, and he (the Holy Prophet) sent him as he had done before. He asked about him and they informed him that there was nothing wrong with him or with his mind. When it was the fourth time, a ditch was dug for him and he (the Holy Prophet) pronounced judgment about him. He (the narrator) said: There came to him (the Holy Prophet) a woman from Ghamid and said: Allah's Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me. He (the Holy Prophet) turned her away. On the following day she said: Allah's Messenger, Why do you turn me away? Perhaps, you turn me away as you turned away Ma'iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant. He said: Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child). When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: Here is the child whom I have given birth to. He said: Go away and suckle him until you wean him. When she had weaned him, she came to him (the Holy Prophet) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: Allah's Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food. He (the Holy Prophet) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) heard his (Khalid's) curse that he had hurried upon her. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven. Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried.
    (Sahih Muslim: Book 17: Hadith 4206)

    Prophet Muhammad first commands to kill a women accused of adultery even after she makes several apologies. Then making people painfully kill her (...And ask a man to be gentle on her, can you imagine that...the height of double standards!). Perhaps women don't deserve any room for freedom or rights in his view.. :D
     
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    #3 aristotle, Dec 2, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2012
  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    aristotle ji

    Problem however is twofold I think. Honor killing is not about religion alone; culture conspires with religion. Any number of cultures, under the cloak of religious creed, practice honor killing. Sikhs or Hindus included. Second problem is that the custom of honor killing travels worldwide now. Honor killing can buy airline tickets from UK and travel to Pakistan; or buy round-trip from Punjab to Vancouver. And there are so many advocates, health workers, doctors, teachers from cultures who practice honor killing who suffer because they know damn well it should not be happening and feel powerless to stop it, or stop it soon enough.
     
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  6. aristotle

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    Yeah, the problem is not religion alone. But when religious laws provide the perfect soil for breeding of patriarchal mindsets, it becomes very complicated. The question is to encourage broad based thinking and reject everything that means discrimination on basis of gender.
     
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  7. Inderjeet Kaur

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    Among Sikhs - i cannot speak for Muslims or Hindus - This problem will persist until the death penalty is carried out against izzat itself. The evil needs to be destroyed at its roots; killing those who have killed perpetuates the cycle of violence...and in the eyes of many, those executed will become heroes, shaheeds.

    Only the most radical measures of the total destruction of the concept of izzat will have a lasting, beneficial effect.
     
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    #6 Inderjeet Kaur, Dec 3, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  8. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Izzat in English mean respect.This is something that is not associated with women only.Even in common Indian language we use word izzat plenty of times
    I don't understand how one can kill respect ?
     
  9. aristotle

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    Haha...KDS ji..
    That is a classic case of 'lost in translation'. I think what Inderjeet Kaur Ji meant by 'izzat' was the term 'honor' as in 'honor killings'.
     
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  10. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    I knew that but I was just asking for clarification

    The honor in honor killing originate from caste , religion , regional, pride etc so as these exists I don't think the concept of honor in killing can be destroyed .
     
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  11. Inderjeet Kaur

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    Izzat is one of those words with no exact translation into English. You know very well that it doesn't mean simple respect as we use the word respect in English. It goes way beyond that into a culturally mandated behaviour that punishes those who dare to break its rules - or be accused of breaking its rules. This punishment most often falls on the females of the family even when the males have committed the transgression and is used as an excuse to punish them to restore the family izzat in ways up to and including murdering them. "Honour" killing is one part of this.

    This subject is too deadly and too serious for us to get bogged down in word games about it. Izzat, as it is practiced in Indian/Pakistani/Sikh culture is a deadly evil that needs to be rooted out.
     
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  12. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Here are some words

    "Izzat ki roti"

    "Izzat se jeena"

    How will you translate them


    And yes extreme measures like killing is often falls on females but disowning , making fun etc are some other measures which fall on men when they break community rules

    Let me say something controversial .Most Sikh men do wear turban and keep hair for the izzat of family and not for the love of Religion and Guru

    Martial races of India always raised their sons telling them attaining shaheedi is their purpose of life and at any point of life showing any cowardice or saying not wanting to fght they were disowned , mocked etc.all they need to keep fighting for the sake of Izzat of their, their family and community

    Is it any wonder that India still retained caste based regiments
     

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