ONTD Political

Not a Victim, but a Hero

9:42 am - 07/26/2009
MEERWALA, Pakistan

After being kidnapped at the age of 16 by a group of thugs and enduring a year of rapes and beatings, Assiya Rafiq was delivered to the police and thought her problems were over.
Then, she said, four police officers took turns raping her.

The next step for Assiya was obvious: She should commit suicide. That’s the customary escape in rural Pakistan for a raped woman, as the only way to cleanse the disgrace to her entire family.
 

 

Instead, Assiya summoned the unimaginable courage to go public and fight back. She is seeking to prosecute both her kidnappers and the police, despite threats against her and her younger sisters. This is a kid who left me awed and biting my lip; this isn’t a tale of victimization but of valor, empowerment and uncommon heroism.

“I decided to prosecute because I don’t want the same thing to happen to anybody else,” she said firmly.

Assiya’s case offers a window into the quotidian corruption and injustice endured by impoverished Pakistanis — leading some to turn to militant Islam.

“When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police,” said Dr. Shershah Syed, the president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan. “Because if she does, the police might just rape her again.”
Yet Assiya is also a sign that change is coming. She says she was inspired by Mukhtar Mai, a young woman from this remote village of Meerwala who was gang raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council. Mukhtar prosecuted her attackers and used the compensation money to start a school.

Mukhtar is my hero. Many Times readers who followed her story in past columns of mine have sent her donations through a fund at Mercy Corps, at www.mercycorps.org, and Mukhtar has used the money to open schools, a legal aid program, an ambulance service, a women’s shelter, a telephone hotline — and to help Assiya fight her legal case.

The United States has stood aloof from the ubiquitous injustices in Pakistan, and that’s one reason for cynicism about America here. I’m hoping the Obama administration will make clear that Americans stand shoulder to shoulder with heroines like Mukhtar and Assiya, and with an emerging civil society struggling for law and social justice.

Assiya’s saga began a year ago when a woman who was a family friend sold her to two criminals who had family ties to prominent politicians. Assiya said the two men spent the next year beating and raping her.
The men were implicated in a gold robbery, so they negotiated a deal with the police in the town of Kabirwala, near Khanewal: They handed over Assiya, along with a $625 bribe, in exchange for the police pinning the robbery on the girl.
By Assiya’s account, which I found completely credible, four police officers, including a police chief, took turns beating and raping her — sometimes while she was tied up — over the next two weeks. A female constable obligingly stepped out whenever the men wanted access to Assiya.

Assiya’s family members heard that she was in the police station, and a court granted their petition for her release and sent a bailiff to get her out. The police hid Assiya, she said, and briefly locked up her 10-year-old brother to bully the family into backing off.
The bailiff accepted bribes from both the family and the police, but in the end he freed the girl. Assiya, driven by fury that overcame her shame, told her full story to the magistrate, who ordered a medical exam and an investigation. The medical report confirms that Assiya’s hymen had been broken and that she had abrasions all over her body.

The morning I met Assiya, she said she had just received the latest in a series of threats from the police: Unless she withdraws her charges, they will arrest, rape or kill her — and her two beloved younger sisters.

The family is in hiding. It has lost its livelihood and accumulated $2,500 in debts. Assiya’s two sisters and three brothers have had to drop out of school, and they will find it harder to marry because Assiya is considered “dishonored.” Most of her relatives tell Assiya that she must give in. But she tosses her head and insists that she will prosecute her attackers to spare other girls what she endured.

(For readers who want to help, more information is available on my blog at: www.nytimes.com/ontheground.)

Assiya’s mother, Iqbal Mai, told me that in her despair, she at first had prayed that God should never give daughters to poor families. “But then I changed my mind,” she added, with a hint of pride challenging her fears. “God should give poor people daughters like Assiya who will fight.”

Amen.

Source
someidiot 26th-Jul-2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't have nearly enough courage to do what she's doing. I hope she helps pave the way for other girls and women in Pakistan who've been abused to step forward and fight.
zacefronfiction 26th-Jul-2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
this
wherezmyprozac 26th-Jul-2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
You go, Assiya!
fruityphobia 26th-Jul-2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
That is amazing courage for someone so young. I hope she wins this.


..Icon <3 btw.
applegnat 26th-Jul-2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't have the guts. Hats off, and if she came down to my city I'd put her up.

I also have to say: every time Nicholas Kristof starts talking about raped women in the Third World, I want to punch him in the face. Why am I so unreasonable? I am a woman in the Third World, I recognise the extreme and urgent importance of bringing information about the poverty and (sex/violence) power crises of the Third World to the English-speaking world, and that victims' voices deserve to be heard, loudly, accurately and compassionately. And yet, I always get the feeling that Kristof is pointscoring and journoporning. It may be that I am prejudiced. Hannah Arendt says that perhaps the only reasonable hope for human civilisation is that stories of resistance are told, and heard. I agree, but I find the process of narrativisation itself deeply flawed.

Anyway, my point was that I hate Nicholas Kristof.
zacefronfiction 26th-Jul-2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
And yet, I always get the feeling that Kristof is pointscoring and journoporning
I feel exactly the same!
neev 26th-Jul-2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've heard similar complaints before. There's a lot of "me" and "I" in that article that's supposed to be about, well, the girl. Like he wants to remind us how special he is for bringing us this story. Regular white knight, that one.

On the other hand, that might just be my knee-jerk reaction to some older white guy bringing us these stories. I tend to assume, unfairly probably, that there's always a hint of patronization in what they're doing.
ginalin 26th-Jul-2009 03:12 pm (UTC)
I guess this is because a woman who is raped in certain cultures is seen as indefensible, worthless to her family and culture and permanently damaged?

If the underlying attitudes that foster such ideas doesn't change, neither will this.
_panache 26th-Jul-2009 03:14 pm (UTC)
Ughhhhh. I'm all for respecting cultures and kind of against America's general "let's make everyone like us" stand, but any culture that treats women this way (which unfortunately, is so many of them) doesn't fucking deserve that respect.
adorethepenguin 26th-Jul-2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
You can still respect a culture even if you don't respect aspects of it.
zacefronfiction 26th-Jul-2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
Ditto on this lol
helders 26th-Jul-2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
ia
mentalmishaps 26th-Jul-2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Bullshit. The obvious next step was for her to commit suicide. We're talking about a culture that shuns raped women as if they are something gross while men are allowed to behave this way. It wasn't just the cops raping someone. It was the whole system being corrupt.

And no, cops do NOT rape people that frequently in America. If a woman is raped here, she is usually not going to get assaulted again if she goes to report it.
mentalmishaps 26th-Jul-2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
Sorry, but it is NOT as common in the US.

“When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police,” said Dr. Shershah Syed, the president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan. “Because if she does, the police might just rape her again.”

We don't have doctors telling women that here. Yes there are bad cops, and prostitutes especially get treated poorly, but it is not nearly as prevailent in the US. You are also neglecting the fact that it is NOT a part of American culture to shun raped women. Corruption is everywhere, but this is something on another level entirely.
mentalmishaps 27th-Jul-2009 01:06 am (UTC)
You're right. That's totally the jist of what I was saying right there. That everything about Pakistani culture is completely shitty and awful and we should just kill them all.

I know you can't hear the sarcasm dripping from my words, but try to imagine it, alright.

I think that there are lots of issues with the culture. That does not mean I think that the culture is valueless.
mentalmishaps 27th-Jul-2009 02:34 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure you need to get your eyes checked because I don't remember saying that anywhere. If you think I did, then you're sorely mistaken.
mentalmishaps 27th-Jul-2009 03:28 am (UTC)
"any culture that treats women this way (which unfortunately, is so many of them) doesn't fucking deserve that respect."

Quote by: _panache

I didn't say that. Good try though.

You're half right because I do kind of agree with that statement. This does NOT mean that I think that their culture is shitty or valueless. Do I think that a culture that treats anyone (women, children, men, etc.) in the way that this culture treats their women deserve respect? Absolutely not. Does that make this culture worthless? Absolutely not. I'm sure Pakistani culture has contributed a lot to the world, and I'm sure that there are many, many, many decent people- men and women- who are in Pakistan right now. This does not mean that their culture does not need improving. They should not be allowed to treat people like this. It says something negative about them that they do.

All cultures have their sticking points; I just happen to feel like this one is a much bigger issue than the sticking points of American culture.
jennem 26th-Jul-2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
You are also neglecting the fact that it is NOT a part of American culture to shun raped women.

Are you fucking kidding me?

There's a reason why rapes are so under-reported, even in the United States. Comparatively, women in the United States have more rights and freedoms than women in Pakistan and other Third World countries (though one could argue that poor women, and particularly poor women of color in the United States still face a great deal more oppression than their white and middle-class counterparts, particularly when it comes to subjugation and rape), but you're deluded if you think that American culture doesn't shun women who are raped. Its gotten better, sure, especially since the sexual revolution and the changing of rape laws to conform with the Model Penal Code's version, but give me a freaking break.

American culture devalues women who have sex. It devalues women who have been raped—to the point of shunning and shaming.
mentalmishaps 27th-Jul-2009 01:12 am (UTC)
Alright, I should clarify.

Currently, the US is much more open to women now. Before women's rights movements, shun and neglect of rape victims was very common. My Mom has told me some pretty ugly stories from not too long ago. It used to be impossible to convict men of abusing or raping women.

HOWEVER it is not COMMONPLACE for a family to, say, kick a woman out of the house for being a rape victim. Not anymore. The US has its bad areas, but it is not even close to the same as what's happening over there.
scolaro 26th-Jul-2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
The next step for Assiya was obvious: She should commit suicide.

Oh, wouldn't these guys have loved that.
I SO hope they're getting their dicks fried.
Assiya's a great fighter indeed, I hope she succeeds!
adorethepenguin 26th-Jul-2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
Holy shit, reading what happened to her was a depressing start to my morning. :c But I'm so fucking amazed by her bravery. I can't even imagine the inner strength this requires.
shrines 26th-Jul-2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
incredible. i will most definitely be donating when i get my paycheck into the bank.
draperyfalls 26th-Jul-2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
Let me add one thing: Pakistanis are sometimes sensitive when I write about the country’s underside, and I can understand that.

It's so fucking dumb that Kristof gets criticism from Pakistanis when negative stories about Pakistan are reported. I've never seen a country so unwilling to accept what a shithole it is in every respect. The pride and nationalism is what will prevent that place from ever experiencing change. And people really have NO idea how truly utterly horribly women are treated there. Not unless you've actually lived there do you really know.
iatrogenicmyth 26th-Jul-2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
I wish we'd liveblogged Hilldawg on Meet the Press. :(

Watching it now ... she's so fierce. [PS MODS COME ON APPROVE MY POST SO WE CAN DISH!!!!!!!]
jimmyblue 26th-Jul-2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
I kinda feel like throwing up and crying and cheering all at the same time.
nostariel 26th-Jul-2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Perfect description is perfect.
angi_is_altered 26th-Jul-2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
That is just sickening, but how brave she was is just mind-blowing.
bowling_otaku 26th-Jul-2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
Holy fuck, I can't even imagine going through all of that. :( Good for her for standing up to them! I wish the best for both her and her family in getting through this and finding justice!!
misshallelujah 27th-Jul-2009 01:28 am (UTC)
Assiya’s mother, Iqbal Mai, told me that in her despair, she at first had prayed that God should never give daughters to poor families. “But then I changed my mind,” she added, with a hint of pride challenging her fears. “God should give poor people daughters like Assiya who will fight.”

;__________;
lizzy_someone 27th-Jul-2009 07:57 am (UTC)
After being kidnapped at the age of 16 by a group of thugs and enduring a year of rapes and beatings, Assiya Rafiq was delivered to the police and thought her problems were over.

Then, she said, four police officers took turns raping her.






ohjesusfuckingchrist.
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