Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lal Bibi's journey for justice

Who is Lal Bibi? to those who havent read her story in NYT and other places, I will summarize that Lal Bibi, 21, was abducted, raped & tortured for five consecutive days by the armed men who are incharge of the Afghan Local Police ( an auxilillary militia called Arbakis) in Kunduz during May 2012. She was punished for the animosity that her cousin had with the armed men of ALP. In Afghanistan, a family's 'honor' is tied with a woman of the family and she is punished to account for someone els's deeds...that is a long story.

There is nothing new about this story either. We have rape cases taking place in this part of the world almost every day but what was so strange about Lal Bibi's case was that her whole tribe stood up for her. For whatever reason ( many say its political) but seeing 50 bearded turbaned men who are the village council's head, provincial council's members, tribal leaders, the mosque mullahs and the community members coming to Kabul accompanying Lal Bibi and her parents - was never seen to me at least, in the past 15 years of my activism for women's rights in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The tribe came to us, the women organizations and activists seeking support. We struggled hard for them and pushed the government to arrest and perpetrators and transferred the case to Kabul's Attorney General's Office so that we can follow the legal proceedings and get justice to Lal Bibi & her tribe. Interesting, the main reason that had mobilized Lal Bibi's tribe was that they are tired of the local militia's and local warlords who abuse everyone at the gun top. They complain that armed militia's armed by the government's weapons, travelling in the government vehicles oppress people, take away their children, sons ( those who are handsome) , take money and crops at the gun top and they are still in power because the government thinks they are fighting the taleban. Many of the people who came with Lal Bibi told me that they will have no other option but to become insurgents and arm themselves just to protect their daughters and land.

Such a tribal support is rare in this country. At least rare for a woman's cause. Seeing all these men supporting Lal Bibi and Lal Bibi's grandfather who kept telling the story with flowing tears on his face - broughtb the journalist who was filming the story.

Lal Bibi is now in one of the women shelters, traumatized, confused and silent. She doesnt respond to anyone and if you ask her to sit under the blue burqa for hours in the heat, she wouldnt even move. Last week, her parents and uncles came to us to follow the case which is now in Kabul. Looking at the proceedings & the paper work of the courts, it seems it will take us an year before the case actually gets into a court. Me and another woman were asking Lal Bibi on how she feels and how would she react at the court, she kept staring at us and didnt even respond. I dont know if she will be able to speak up for herself in the court...or will keep staring at people. Angry, silent and broken.

Lal Bibi is lucky. I know she is lucky to have been able to reach to some support, while I know hundreds and thousands of women in Afghanistan are abused, raped, tortured but all in silence and they turn into ashes and no one even notices them. She is lucky to have her tribe standing beside her for justice!!! While women are stoned to death in this country & no one from her family even stands up for her, proved the Parwan stoning case in early July 2012.

Just last week, during last week of July- Najiba was burnt at home by petrol in one of the urban neighborhoods of Kabul. The neighbors took her to the hospital where she died in silence. While we tried to take up the case with the police, we were told how can a dead person wake up and tell us who killed her and without that information we cant do anything. The case is closed.