April 26, 2006

Mukhtar Mai News

Apr. 26, 2006 Washington
Mukhtar Mai, who is here to receive a number of awards, was hosted at a well-attended reception at the Pakistan embassy on Monday evening. “My slogan is to end oppression through education,” Mai said in brief remarks on the occasion. She thanked the embassy, particularly Ambassador Jehangir Karamat, for inviting her. She recited two lines from a poem, which said that dark clouds never remain there forever and the day will dawn when women – mothers and sisters – would be accorded their due place in society.

Mar. 12, 2006 Pakistan
Five thousand women, led in part by rape victim and campaigner Mukhtar Mai, protested in Pakistan for equal rights.

Jan. 22, 2006 New York
An interview with Mukhtar Mai in the United Nations scheduled for Friday night has been cancelled because of pressure from Pakistan’s government, according to the New York Times.

Nov. 28, 2005 Lahore
Devoting Life to Oppressed Women and Education

Oct. 25, 2005 Pakistan
Clinton to introduce Mukhtar Mai in US

Sep. 7, 2005 SouthAsia (BBC)
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said his country should not be singled out for its treatment of women.

June 29, 2005 ISLAMABAD (Reuters)
Pakistan wants to ensure gang-rape victim Mukhtaran Mai finds justice, President Pervez Musharraf said on Wednesday, as he invited women from around the world to come and tell of their abuse and recommend solutions.

June 26, 2005 BBC
Armed men have attacked and burned a girls’ school in Afghanistan

June 24, 2005 ISLAMABAD
Rice Snubs Musharraf Over Mukhtar Mai Episode

June 18, 2005 WASHINGTON
Mukhtar Mai to be allowed to travel to US

June 17, 2005 ISLAMABAD
Pakistan on Wednesday lifted a travel ban on a well-known rape victim, days after her name was placed on a list of people barred from leaving the country.

June 16, 2005 WASHINGTON
US outraged at Mukhtar Mai’s suppression

June 15, 2005 ISLAMABAD
Karamat scuttled Pakistan gang rape victim’s Amnesty visit

June 13, 2005 RAWALPINDI
Airports put on alert to stop gang-rape victim from travelling

June 11, 2005 BBC
The victim of a notorious Pakistan gang rape says she is being prevented from moving freely or leaving the country.

June 10, 2005 New Zealand
Mai place under house arrest

May 20, 2005 ADNAN R. KHAN
Treated like property, Pakistani women fight futilely against ‘honour crimes’

May 16, 2005 ISLAMABAD
Mukhtar Mai who was allegedly gang-raped three years ago, will have to wait for another four months in her pursuit of justice because there is no chance of an early hearing for her in the Supreme Court.

Mar. 29, 2005 MD MALIK
The authorities have re-arrested four accused in the Mukhtar Mai rape case on the directives of President General Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz after the victim met the PM for seeking justice in the case.

Mar. 3, 2005 BBC
Five men sentenced to death in a high-profile gang-rape case in the Pakistani province of Punjab have been acquitted on appeal.

Aug. 24, 2002 MULTAN
The Dera Ghazi Khan anti-terrorism court will give its verdict on the Meerwala gang-rape case on Aug 27 as both prosecution and defence concluded their arguments.

June, 2002 PAKISTAN
In June 2002, 30-year-old Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on the orders of a council of tribal elders from her village of Meerwala, Pakistan.

Mai herself was not charged with any wrongdoing, but a rumor had spread through the village that her 14-year-old brother had been seen in public with a girl from a rival tribe. In remote areas of Pakistan, tribal codes often take precedence over both Islamic law and the secular law of the land. Understanding the power of the tribal councils, when Mai heard that the rival clan was going to put her brother on trial she rushed before the self-appointed councilors to plead for mercy on his behalf.

The elders heard her plea. With the logic of wanton cruelty, they spared Mai’s brother and ordered that she should be raped, explaining that the rape would shame her family and thus restore the offended tribe’s honor. Four volunteers carried out the sentence in the presence of a cheering mob, taking turns, and Mai was thrown into the street, where her father covered her beaten body with a shawl and walked her home through a village of staring eyes.

In the dark days that followed, Mai attempted to take her own life, overwhelmed by physical pain and a sense of personal and familial shame that is perhaps not possible for outsiders to understand.

But if Mai was momentarily ready to give in to despair, despair was apparently not ready to take her. Her family revived her physically and friends who had known and admired her throughout her life revived her spiritually, or, in Mai’s words, “awakened my dead soul.” This group of childhood friends – Nasreen Akhtar, Naseem Akhtar, and Jamil Anjum – stood by Mai as she began a process of recovery and a quest for justice that would, before long, change not only Mai and her friends but the entire village.

The type of court that sentenced Mai, known as a panchiat court, is not at all uncommon in rural Pakistan and her punishment, known as karo kari, is not the norm but neither is it unheard of – more than 150 Pakistani women were raped by order of panchiat courts in the first half of 2004. For women in rural Pakistan, honor consists primarily in being thought of as pure – a raped woman has lost her virginity, her purity, and is therefore not marriageable. To steal a woman’s virginity in Pakistan is thus, in many cases, to steal her future and her dignity.

But there are more kinds of dignity than that found in the perceptions of others. For Mukhtar, dignity also had its foundations in education and religion. In a region where illiteracy is the norm, Mukhtar had been educated and was herself a teacher of Islam. She understood her rights as arising not only from the esteem in which she was held by others, but also from her own understanding and abilities and from an innate value bestowed by God on all humans and codified in the Koran.

When the local imam, or Islamic cleric, heard of what had happened to Mai, he used his position at the pulpit to speak out against the injustice that had been done and to call for Mai’s condemners and attackers to be brought to trial before a civil court. The balance of political power that had once favored the attackers was slowly beginning to shift. The imam encouraged Mai to file an official complaint with the police. Mai filed the complaint, which was at first ignored.

She did not give up. Her attackers had assumed she would be too ashamed to reveal what had happened, but with the assistance of her friends and the imam, she got word out to the local and international media. In a post-9/11 world where the Pakistani government was eager to prove that it was on the side of law and order, this media attention was enough to shame the civil authorities into action. The tribal elders and the volunteer rapists were brought to trial; six were sentenced to hang. Mai and her family were pleased with the verdict, not only because it represented justice for Mai, but because they felt it would help to break the authority of panchiat courts and discourage the practice of karo kari rapes.

“God has provided justice to me,” Mai told reporters at the time. “If more courts start giving decisions like this, I am sure that rapes will be reduced, if not stopped totally. I am satisfied with the decision.”

As part of the settlement, Mai was given the equivalent of about $8,000 in compensation – a very large sum in rural Pakistan. Perhaps fearing that Pakistan’s reputation would be hurt further if Mai were to suffer any retribution in her village, the government also offered to buy her a home in cosmopolitan Islamabad, where she would live a life of relative luxury in a place where no one knew anything about her past. Mai declined those offers. Instead of leaving, she took the $8,000 and used it to start a school for girls in Meerwala, the village’s first. At this school, Mai and her friends work to provide young girls with the knowledge and understanding that will give them more power in the world, more awareness of their rights, and more dignity to fall back on when those rights are challenged.