Guest Blogger

GUEST BLOG — Is This Honor? By Pakistani Journalist Farzana Ali

Farzana Ali, Pakistani journalist: photo from Farzana Ali

This blog is from Farzana Ali, a contributor to The Women’s Eye and Bureau Chief for Aaj TV in Peshawar, Pakistan. The following is her editorial about the ‘honor’ killings that are escalating in her country.

Videographers and reporters Habiba Noseen and Hilke Schellman have given us permission to use the photos of the women’s shelter in Lahore, Pakistan. They were published at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

By Farzana Ali, March 29, 2012

More than 900 Pakistani women and girls were killed in the name of ‘honor’ in 2011 …Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Report, March /2012

During my usual work, I was editing my report, but all of a sudden I received a call from my Kohistan ( a district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa in northwest Pakistan) correspondent informing me that a girl and her alleged lover were shot dead in a village in Palas Kohistan Tehsil.

However, he shared that no FIR (First Information Report) was registered in the police station by the families of either victim as tribal culture does not allow them to seek justice through the authorities. Rather, he said, they opt to take revenge on their own. This was the second incident of honor killing in the same week in the same area.

Twenty-five-year-old Kamalur Rehman, alias Kama, from the Jadoon Khel tribe, allegedly developed a romantic relationship with 21-year-old Bano Bibi from the Badar Sher tribe. According to a report in The Express Tribune, Bibi’s father, Habibur Rehman, a medical technician from the Kohistan Health Department, had fixed her marriage with a relative.

After learning of Bibi’s relationship with Kama, her father is reported to have shot and killed him. Later he went home and allegedly killed his daughter Bibi. He was on the run until last reports came in. According to police, no party has lodged an FIR so far. However the police have started their own investigation.

Woman in Lahore, Pakistan Shelter

Woman in the shelter where Hina Jilani works in Lahore, Pakistan (2011). She was afraid that her family was still hunting her down. Her husband had been killed./Credit: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

This was not a ‘new’ story for me but these types of stories always bring me back to my previous job when I was working as a magazine editor. There I wrote a feature on the honor killing of 29-year-old Saima Sarwar’s cold-blooded murder in April 1999.

This article aroused a great deal of publicity and outrage both at home and internationally. Before Saima’s case, it was believed that honor killings only occurred among rural or uneducated groups. Her mother was a doctor and father, a wealthy businessman.

Saima was the mother of two boys who lived with her parents for four years after leaving her husband. She fled to Lahore after her family threatened to kill her if she tried to divorce her husband. She was given shelter by Dastak, an organization run by the legal aid team headed by Hina Jilani and her sister Asma Jahangir, also a leading Pakistani human rights lawyer. Jilani was representing her in her divorce procedure.

She agreed to see her mother in the Dastak office but before the meeting began, she was shot there by her uncle and died instantly. After the terrible incident, Jilani went to court to prosecute the case. When the FIR was lodged, Saima’s uncle was prosecuted and fined, and the case was sent for trial.

Hina Jilani, runs women's shelter in Lahore, Pakistan

Hina Jilani

But even before the hearings could begin, Saima’s parents used the Qisas and Diyat Law where the victim or heir has the right to determine whether to exact retribution or compensation or to pardon the accused. Another option is to thrash out a compromise amongst the parties and escape prosecution.

After that brutal incident, certain sections of society and several religious organizations sided with Saima’s parents and accused Jilani and her sister of misleading women in Pakistan and contributing to the country’s bad image abroad.

Fatwas were issued against the sisters declaring them “kafirs” and instigating the “believers” to kill the two women. I was the first journalist who wrote a feature on that incident. After publishing that story, I was also strongly criticized by certain sections of society including my colleagues for writing against their traditions and cultural values.

I also remember the conversation in the Senate ( Upper House) when a senator tabled a resolution condemning the killing. In response to the resolution, the morals of Jilani and Jahangir were questioned: “We have fought for human rights and civil liberties all our lives but wonder what sort of human rights are being claimed by these girls in jeans.”

Hina Jilani Dastak Shelter being guarded

The staff and women receive death threats at the Lahore shelter which is protected by armed guards at all times./Photo: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

Out of 87 Senators, only four supported the resolution, and I believe Saima did not get justice because of the flaws in the laws. In 2004, the Criminal Law (Amendment)Act, otherwise known as the ‘Honor Killing Act,’ was put into force to criminalize all murders committed under the name of honor.

However justice is still not provided to Saima and others as many women are still being brutally murdered in the name of honor. Although the government has passed several bills to prosecute discriminatory practices, violence against women continues to rise with each passing day.

According to information in the recent annual report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), at least 943 Pakistani women and girls were callously murdered in the name of honor in 2011. Hundreds were killed by their fathers, husbands, or brothers for damaging their family name. There were 791 such killings in 2010.

Aurat Foundation, the women rights organization, launched a study in January on honor killings in Pakistan, which focused on legislation to counter the trend. Conducted by advocate Maleeha Zia, it showed that many cases featured in the media were not reported to police.

The study also said that if other cases were reported, they had not been classified as honor killing. The study claimed that the courts usually issued verdicts in favor of the killers by using the provision of ‘grave and sudden provocation.’ Zia added that responsible institutions lack the commitment to implement the law.

Woman signing into Hina Jilani center

This woman is signing out and leaving her fingerprints at the shelter before going to

Many lawmakers have the opinion that major shortcomings in the ‘Honor Killing Act’ have rendered the law useless. It did not remove the option of Qisas and Diyat leaving one of the biggest loopholes in the law. It fails to provide protection to victims and punishment for the perpetrators and supporters of this heinous crime.

There are also many flaws in recording data. Another factor is that most of the honor crimes are committed by family members who are “unwilling” to lose another family member. Almost 77% of cases end in acquittal of the perpetrators. As a result, most of the cases end without justice.

Field officer for Human Rights Commission in Pakistan who says incidences of "honor killings" are much higher than reported./Photo: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

Field officer for Human Rights Commission in Pakistan who says incidences of "honor killings" are much higher than reported./Photo: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

While writing this article, I received news from Nowshera, a District of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, that a mother and her two children were killed. In this case, the cause of murder was that the woman defied her family by marrying a man of her choosing. After five years, her uncle allegedly took revenge and killed three innocent people.

Saima died and so have other women in the name of honor, but justice is still being denied to them through customary practices and discriminatory laws which should be repealed.

###

About the author:

Farzana Ali has just completed a documentary about the River Indus, which flows through Pakistan, and the life of the people who live along it. It calls attention to the devastation caused by the 2010 floods. She says the film tries to deepen the understanding and consciousness around such large scale destruction and to show the challenges of the rehabilitation process. It will be screened in Islamabad in early April.

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Guest Blog: Sandy Foster’s Star of Wonder, Star of Night

Sandy Foster's Star

December 15, 2011

We asked Sandy Foster, the curator of a simply wonderful design website, My Shabby Streamside Studio, to do a blog this year as she had done last December to share with us what the holidays mean to her.

Her articles here on TWE are very popular, and we thought our audience would be interested in hearing from her again. As always, times change, things happen, and life can gobsmack you. Here’s her story this year… [Read more...]

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PHYLLIS THEROUX ESSAY

“Getting the Hang of It”

(see Phyllis’ interview on EYE)

From the Ladies Home Journal, 1974

 

By Phyllis Theroux

Phyllis Theroux | The Journal Keeper | Photo by Duane Berger

Rocking slowly back and forth, pressing the worms in my chest against my hunched-up knees. One little daughter banging for all she’s worth against the front door. The baby, needing to be changed, crying in the backyard. A husband fixing the brakes on his bicycle on the patio. And I am rocking back and forth, not knowing where to place my hands, fix my gaze, or rest my soul.

 

When the time finally came, I was quite glad to be done with blue jeans and undershirts. One September afternoon my friend Patsy’s mother came to the front door and said that Patsy “wouldn’t be coming out to play today.” I cocked my head toward the second floor and heard radio tunes straining through an open window. I realized Patsy’s time had come. She had dropped out of neighborhood games in favor of curling her hair and pushing back her cuticles with an orange stick. My own participation in ‘Kick the Can grew more desultory. And when my breasts began to hurt from catching hard foot balls, I dropped out, too.

I remember vividly the romance of girlhood when it finally arrived: Merry Widow waist cinchers, crinolines, knowing that I was a rather good dancer. To be perfectly truthful, I didn’t date a lot of boys who measured up to the Big Prize, but they did serve as hooks on which to hang own private visions of marriage.

My tastes lay with the earnest young men who suffered, which brought me into much contact with the short, the acned and the shy. We confessed to thoughts of suicide, fear of breakdowns and worries about Cod. After an evening spent turning over our notions of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness for each other’s inspection, we both felt terribly meaningful. I assumed that this kind of conversation would go on with whomever I married. The little wife would serve up those uniquely feminine insights. I could hardly wait. I had so many stored up.

Always I am trying to communicate. Always he is trying to avoid it. When my soul writhes, I am annoyingly ready to talk about it. Only if I were to take away his children would there be consternation. That is the evil, smelly, never-to-be-played trump card.

In various ways, my family taught me to pity those hot-blooded girls who lent themselves around. It was strongly implied that whereas those thoughtless creatures would marry truck drivers, or worse, I would have my pick of the Ivy League. And so it was that I spent my adolescent passion on the volleyball court, while my peers were getting drunk under their parents’ pianos. I might have been tempted to go astray had I been sought after by the studs of the neighborhood, but they were much more interested in what was going on under the neighborhood pianos.

Here we all are at breakfast. “Starts a man off happy,” mother said. So we get with the orange juice, the frying pan, the buttered toast, the bacon. “Hi, sweetie, here’s the paper.”

Here we all are again at dinner.

Off with the denim skirt, on with a little eyebrow pencil, Simon and Garfunkel. “Hi, sweetie, did you have a good day?” Dinner on the table, fresh corn tonight, clean faces, family together. My bones are singing with fatigue.

“So why aren’t we eating in the kitchen,” he demands. “Look at the crap the kids have dropped on the carpet!

Damn, there it goes—one day’s worth of scenes ruined by the last take, I can’t take another suffocating minute of it.

My parents were very disciplined about keeping their grievances against each other away from us, which made me very good at not taking them into account at all. I graduated from flats to heels, took planes, spent weekends away, and drank steadily of the Hi-C of life.

Once my mother said, with a sigh, that she wished there was a boarding school for grown-ups that she could check into and live the life that I lived every day. But who would gather anything sinister from that?

I am nowhere. Old sources have been blown away. Still there’s that old lust for tenderness, waiting for an arm to gather me in and bury me against a warm chest. Not tonight. With a half-dozen leg twitches, he kicks himself asleep.

Fear freezes anger. Anger apologizes to fear, I am ready to take the pledge again tomorrow. With the orange juice and bacon the Simon and Garfunkel, the positive approach, and time on my side—all in the hopes that there won’t be crap on the carpet or whatever it is that will roll the day back on top of me. One of these days, I’ll get the hang of the slot machine and it’ll come up three cherries. I release the handle and search for sleep.

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Guest Blog: Sandy Foster’s Special Holiday Message

Sandy Foster  || Christmas at her Tiny House

I asked Sandy Foster if she’d like to be the first EYE guest blogger. The interview about her tiny retreat earlier this year triggered a warm response from readers who admired her creative spirit. Her website is a must visit.

Sandy starts decorating her 9×14 foot studio in the Catskills in late October and leaves everything up until February, dismantling it as weather permits. The slope to the cabin is steep and snowy so she says she has to ford the stream in her “pink wellies” to get there.

Her dream is to publish a book featuring romantic holiday decor from bloggers worldwide. Creating Vintage Charm Magazine currently features Sandy’s little sanctuary with her beautiful tree on the cover.

Sandy Foster's Vintage Charm Magazine

Here is Sandy’s message along with photos of her enchanting Christmas cottage and upcycled ornaments… [Read more...]

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