Friday, 13 September 2013

An atrocity

According to the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) in North Kivu (Congo, Africa), 7,075 women were raped in 2012. This figure does not calculate all those woman who suffered this act of violence. Only those, who reported it. Most of these have already been raped again or will be raped again. The UNHCR believes that this number will increase. Why did I not hear about this alarming news in the mainstream media? Perhaps, because we do not care much those people. It is their war. Furthermore, there is an absence of a chemical weapon used on them by a dictator who has fallen from grace in the eyes of US and Saudi Arabia.

This news reminds me of Rachel Weisz role as Tessa Quayle in ‘The constant gardener’. As an Amnesty activist Tessa gets killed for her investigation of an illegal drug testing on Kenyan public. Weisz played a similar, more recent role, in ‘The whistleblower’ (2011). The story is based on true events in post-war Bosnia. A UN employee (Weisz) posted in Bosnia finds out that women are being trafficked into Bosnia by the help of UN employees. These woman were being abused by international workers who have immunity and cannot be charged for their crimes. The cop, due to her repetitive efforts to help the girls, gets kicked out of her job, and goes public with the information and evidence. The UN never accepted the charges. Those people were never penalized for their actions. The contracts they covered and the companies they worked for were too lucrative to be punished for crimes against ‘war-whores’.

During the Bosnian war an estimate of 50000 women were raped (Stiglmayer et al. 1994). This calculation includes the mass-rapes which led to systematic and sexual enslavement. There is another movie about this the topic called ‘In the land of blood and honey. It is a haunting reflection of what happened and why. End of war should have bought relief for women but instead, it made it worse for many of them.  It is a dramatic thing to say but the protectors became hunters. I wonder what kind of punishment can actually amount to the crimes they made. Wesiz's was a brave role. It is unfortunate how celebrities whose sole purpose is to use expensive products and show off will get so much coverage, but such a role wont. Such terrible occurrences won’t. Just as the alarming increase in the rape at Congo, which is twice than what it was in 2011 won’t. These news are not important. Until, you can convert it into a blue film. People will happily watch it then.

It was also stated towards the end that the contractors involved in this situation are the same ones who were involved in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have yet to find out in detail about rape victims in these countries. I do not know if we can ever find out the number of woman trafficked as sex slaves. There are several reasons why I am against the US attack on Syria. Killing of innocent civilians, use of chemical weapons like phosphorus and destruction of the country being a few of them. This movie added another one to this list. Trafficking of Syrian woman. I have no doubts that woman in Syria are facing violent actions even now, as we speak. However, they will have a larger crowd to struggle against if the international forces enter.

I have no problem with someone trying to sell their body. I do, however, condemn the use of a woman’s body without their consent. (I would condemn a man’s body as well but it is hardly as common commodity as a woman’s, right?) Be it for sexual pleasures (commercial or domestic), advertising, or pornographic images. Condemn is a mild word. I am outraged. However, I have a short term memory. I am a woman who gets annoyed by the idea that my future husband would expect me to cook food for him every day. Right now I feel small for my fears compared to the atrocities faced by woman around the world. Very soon, this feeling will hide in one of the corners of my brain, only to come out again for a small time. Most of these poor women would happily exchange their lives for doing what I dread to do. I speak of those who suffer from the brutalities of war. Rape being the worst of them.

Although, I must admit that war and post-war are not the only times woman and minors face this horrible crime. Rape occurs in developing countries, peaceful areas that are considered as safe. According to the US department of justice, around 300,000 rape cases are reported every year (Chemaly 2012). India is slowly losing its image of a spiritual land after an increase in reports about rape crimes in the international media. According to National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2013, 24,923 rapes were reported. This is nowhere near the actual number. This is rather ironic because international media has been quite ignorant in reporting rape of Kashmiri woman by Indian soldiers. Perhaps, the people who control the world decided it was a good time give India a jolt and affect its tourism industry? I won’t even go into the domestic/ marital rape affair.

I know a few people who work for woman who are rape victims and have suffered from sexual abuse. These have been labelled as ‘feminists’, a word which either strongly respected or completely mocked. I used to think it was a chauvinist attitude of Pakistani men in general. Women, who are also affected by the attitude of men tend to have a negative attitude towards other women who discuss feminism. A women rights activist is not someone highly respected, since she keeps on fighting against the men. Of course, the fact that we Pakistanis have examples like Asma Jehangir, who are corrupt, rude, loud, arrogant, and traditionally unhinged.  It is no surprise that woman suffer more because many ignorant people consider the likes of her as the symbol of feminism. Recently, I have had more posts dealing with feminism on Facebook wall and I am a little concerned that very soon I will be called a feminist and my rationale-thinking will become emotional tantrums, typical for my gender.

However, the anti-feminist attitude is deeply rooted with in the western culture as well. Bigotry has nothing to do with Pakistani men. It seems like the norm for men of the world. There is an event called ‘Slut-walk’ which was initiated back in 2011, after a Canadian constable advised women not to dress up as sluts, if they want to avoid being raped. Several woman were outraged and the protested against this action of victim blaming by reclaiming the word slut. Slut walk started all around the world. Some woman dressed up in skimpy clothes, other dressed up in their routine attire. The main purpose was to explain a simple fact. If a consent is not given, nothing should happen. Several decent men support slut walk. The suggestion that a man is unable to control himself is equally offensive to men. However, several men did not. Several woman did not either. We come from societies that are tuned to victim blaming. A women too bold is a woman ‘out there’. The point about moral rape, when men discuss woman behind them is not even being mentioned here.

Neither morality, not any religion permits or allows rape. Yet, again and again women and minors go through this humiliating, soul-damaging trauma. The United Nations made rape a crime against humanity in 2008. Yet, the number of criminals punished for their crimes can be counted. These won’t even go into hundreds. Similarly, most of the rapists are not charged, or released on parole. Their crimes unaccounted for.

The reason why I have been able to do what I want to do with my life is because of my father. A man, who knew how to love and support his daughter. Most of the men I know are like him, decent human beings. They condemn rape and have similar sentiments for rape victims as I. Most of the men in the world are like that. Yet, the fact that rape has increased instead of decreasing is a scary idea. We humans might have come a long way from using fire for communication to satellite phones, yet from humanity’s point of view, we still have a long journey to cover.

Monday, 2 January 2012

How I got my New Year's resolution...

First day of 2012 and I nearly lost my eye. Yes folks, I did again. This time I managed to hurt my eyes by allowing the boiling hot tea to jump into them. I kid you not! I had just taken out my mug from the microwave and noticed that tea had gone bad due to rotten milk, when the spongy mass of what was once milk burst and threw hot sprints of liquid inside my eye. As I got my first aid and lied to down to rest my eyes, strange streams of thought started processing in my brain.
With a prevailing fear that I had permanently damaged my eyes, I started thinking about things that would happen if I were to go blind (God Forbid!). Not only would it affect the way I manage daily things in my life but also what career would I possibly have without being dependent on any one else for my care. How would I read the remaining papers and finish my current chapter?How would I get through using the internet from my normal computer since I wouldn’t have money to get a special laptop? How would I prepare for my lectures without my lappy, and also how would I teach? There were other extremely important questions around the lines of   “Aik to nerd, upper se andhi... bibi tum se shadi kon kerega???” These, I would rather not speak of….
And suddenly I realized how thankless I usually am in my daily life. I have always taken my eyes for granted, using them all the time and hardly ever thanking ALLAH for them. A life without them would be completely different. Albeit, I would develop other senses  that would help me cope, nonetheless, if given a choice I would not want that kind of life. Hence, I have decided not to whine about little things that I normally whine about. Today the weather is warmer than it was yesterday, yet this heat is bearable, because I have a lot of things to be grateful for. And even if I do end up losing one of these things, I will still have a lot of other things to be happy and obliged about. May ALLAH bless us all!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Women: Still a commodity

I came across this post. It points how woman is still being represented as a commodity. Reminds me of the 'dumb blonde' notion...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Language, Ethnicity and Us....

“Are you Hindustani?” These words weren’t new for me. Coming from an Urdu-Speaking family I always had to explain my ancestral brief history in- order to assure that I was NOT a Hindustani. But the fact that it was one of my best friend asking was some what offending. “ I was born in Pakistan, I was bought up here. I hardly know anyone from my family who stayed back in India. Neither of my parents were born there. They were in born in East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh. Heck! I definitely am NOT Hindustani.” “Then what are you?”. “I am Urdu-Speaking?” . “Aren’t all Urdu –speaking Hindustani?” “I have only been to Hindustan once for 5 days...How exactly am I Hindustani?” “You don’t have an ancestral village here.” “SO?” “So what do you tell people when they ask you where you belong from?” “Islamabad..I was born there” “Yes, but you don’t live there” “Yes, but I grew up in different places. My father kept on getting posted.”” I know, that’s my point so you are not really from Islamabad right?” “ WRONG…Listen dude, regardless of my ancestral villages whereabouts, I m NOT Hindustani . I am a hard core Pakistani. OK? Stop annoying me!” My friend changed the topic. Despite the fact that he did not really understood me. There lies my dilemma. My and all of Urdu speaking people who have similar brought up as mine.

Pathans and Balochis take us as Punjabis. Punjabis know we are not Punjabis so we are not really one of them. I can not speak for those brought up in Karachi, but those of my kinds who did not spend more than two and a half years in one city are as much out of their league as we are of the others. So what do we do? With all the language and ethnic issues surge in the country these days, absence of electricity, abundance of humid vapours in the air, continuous Taliban and Anti-Taliban clashes and Military operations, ever increasing friendly fire and collateral damages, the lawyers going berserk and the crazy media expeditions, I get this sudden urge of becoming violent when anyone ask me if I am Hindustani.

This ‘Urdu-speaking are Hindustani’ syndrome isn’t merely an external community inflicted pain. The idea has its strong hold with the Urdu-speaking as well. “You don’t really sound Bihari. Are you Delhiwal or from Lakhnav?” “I went to Delhi and didn’t really like it. Can I please be a Lakhnavi? Oh wait, My mom’s grandmother was from Lakhnow but my dad’s family lived in Banaras.” “Oh!! So your dad is a Banarsi baboo haan? Khai ke paan banaras wala!” “Not exactly, his family migrated from Central Asia, Samarqand and Bukhara” “Oh…Who are you bhaee??” There it goes again…. Why can’t I just be Pakistani???

Allah says in the Holy Quran “O mankind, we have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, so that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most godfearing of you" (49:13). The races and ethnicities were created amongst men so that they can differentiate amongst each other. Differentiate, not discriminate. Islam does not allow us to feel superior just because we belong to a particular region, or speak particular language. Perhaps I feel more strongly about it because I have never really belonged anywhere or in any group; or because I can see the damage this strong sense of ethnicity and racism is doing to my beloved motherland.

Indeed, what we currently face is the worst jolt of crisis ever faced in the last 62 years of this ‘Land of Pure”. Things have been boiling inside a covered pot for a long time now. The simmering on low heat, the continuous and strategic addition of external spices, and the periodic stirring of the spoon has certainly added taste and value to the raw problems. Let us take an example from Balochistan; The part kept on being neglected by those in the Parliament and the National Assembly; The native rulers helped in aggregating the situation by whining and crying, but hardly taking any practical steps to resolve the issues; The external elements of RAW and perhaps other agencies helped in increasing the communication gap and brain washing of the sufferers. An entire generation grown with such a mind frame can not be undermined in any possible way. Those who are not Balochis or Pathans have been asked to leave. Instances of people being killed because they were of a different ethnicity have been reported. Those who have been through the trauma of 71’ see this as a repetition of circumstances.

Is ethnicity really so important that human life can be sacrificed? I always ask myself. I have gradually learnt to believe the ironical absurdity of borders and countries. If it was only for managerial ease, it would have meant sense, but the power hunger element that drives the laws and the rules of the world do not in any way sound logical to me. Mankind has reached its pinnacle of civilization and humanity and is now receding back to its early ages. The times when might was right; If not, Osama Bin Laden would not have been the biggest enemy of the world; if not, Weapons of Mass Destruction weren’t made the biggest issue; if not brutal killings of innocent lives wouldn’t have been termed as ‘ friendly fire’. The history books narrate that Urdu and Hindi language as the first and foremost point of conflict between Muslims and Hindus of the subcontinent. I beg to differ; it was the difference of status and treatment that actually made this language such a huge issue. If Muslims were clever enough to acquire English language and get better jobs, these native languages wouldn’t have made people living together beat each other and develop hatred.

We humans may not understand oral and written language of each other. We may not be able to understand body language due to cultural difference. However, we should have the eyes, and the heart to understand the language of humanity. We should be able to respect each other for our differences. We should be able to trust each other, despite our differences.

I am as much of a Pakistani as anyone else because I have lived in different areas of Pakistan. I have savored the variety of cultural favours of different part of this beautifully intricate and complex country. My grandfather gave his life for this country. My entire family migrated twice for it. If I am a Hindustani then no body deserves to be Pakistani. None at all… But I am not a Pakistani who would kill anyone with harmful intentions for Pakistan. I am not going to feel superior merely because of my language or my ancestral background. I have not been trained as a soldier. I am a communicologist and if I fail to communicate my respect for those with different opinions I fail myself and those who trust me. If anyone thinks I unpatriotic than I’ll let it be.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Brave One and The Unbrave

It is indeed unfortunate that my first official blog is about a dead man. This man died yesterday, on 5th Oct, 09 while performing his duty inside the bank. Mr. Muhammad Siddque, a guard at MCB's Samanabad branch was performing a routine check of a guy entering the building, when he was shot dead. This guy was a dacoit who entered the bank with the intentions of looting it. Thought why he killed the poor guard, I fail to comprehend. He could have easily knocked him down or punched him and taken the CSO standing next to the guard as a hostage. Despite the unlimited numbers of imaginable scenarios, the guard's life will not be brought back. Neither will be that of the dacoit, who was shot in the head while leaving the bank by another guard.

Ironically, both the men who died in this incidence came from poor family. The bank's money was insured, so even if the guard wasn't killed and the guy took the money with him, the bank wouldn't have lost much. Technically speaking, the bank didn't lose much even now. The guard was hired through an agency, so he will be easily replaced. Some compensation shall be made for his family. The dead dacoit was a bad guy, who killed the innocent guard; hence, it is good that he is dead. No one even knows his name.

Followup news items will be covering the details about guard's family. His widow crying, his children suffering and tormented. The TV channels will capitalize upon another chance of covering the ‘human side’ of the story and broadcast interviews with the deceased’ loved ones. The dacoit would be left dead. His intentions for looting the bank will not be dug deep into. That is not how the media works. The media does not highlight why the terrorists came into being, it only covers what it that the terrorist are doing is. It wonders why are the terrorist not being captured and applauds when the terrorists are killed. However, it ignores the fact that the terrorism keeps on getting evolved.

I keep wondering why we blame the dacoit in all of such incidents. Why do we not pin-point the factors that cause his evolution into thud and strive to curb it? Is that not the right way to go by it? The childhood fairytale of good and bad continues. Who cares about the stakeholders that select the perception of ‘good’ and ‘bad’? Who worries about the makers of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’? We all need more fairytales to get entertained...