Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mukhtaran Bibi email

Read Ezra's post, and then write one of your own. There's seven people to send it to. If you don't have an Indian name, you'll probably have more impact than me -- the Pakistanis are likely to think I'm just another anti-Pakistani Indian stirring up trouble. And I don't imagine there's a need to be as polite or as lengthy as I'm being.

I write to protest the utterly vicious way that Pakistan has treated Mukhtaran Bibi.

She is a truly heroic woman. After having been publicly gang-raped by men of her village at the order of a tribal council, she testified against her persecutors and had them put in prison. She used the money she received as compensation to start schools in her village. When her case became known to the rest of the world and people sent her more money, she expanded the schools, set up an ambulance service, and worked to protect women from violent abuse.

Shortly after she was invited to speak in America, your government put her under house arrest, cut her phone lines, released the men who raped her, and imprisoned her at a secret location. At this point, nobody can contact her. I am among the many people who are concerned for her safety.

I will telephone my Congressman and Senators tomorrow to express my fury at the imprisonment of Ms. Mukhtaran. I am also doing what I can to make more people aware of her plight. A country that mistreats one of its heroes in this horrific manner deserves no support from America.

Yours,
--Neil Sinhababu

If you write an email, feel free to mention it in the comments section. I'm wondering how many of my readers will take action here.

[New Update]: Things are looking better for Mukhtaran Bibi. (That link now points to Tom Watson, who's been leading the charge on this issue. He's probably the person to go to for updates.) I'm holding off on the phone calls for the time being.

17 comments:

Mary said...

Neil, I wrote e-mails to the seven addresses in Ezra's post. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of your readers, and also expressing enough urgency that I didn't procrastinate about this. I hope everyone can do some good in this matter.

Rousseau said...

Did you do the things you said you'd do in your email (telephone congressmen, etc.)? I forget, where are you registered. I remember last time we talked it was Penn, is that still right?

Although this case seems pretty clearly a case of the Pakistani government being officious, in general I am very torn about how much to not interfere with other cultures that may be much more reactionary than us.

battlepanda said...

Thanks for the heads up.

I blogged and emailed and was considerably less polite than Neil.

Good cop/bad cop, right?

Battlepanda said...

Rousseau,
Give me a break! 'Officious'? They threw the woman in jail and set her attackers loose for trying to tell her story to Americans!

Since the only reason she's in jail is that the Pakistani authority is so terrified of our disapprobation, why the hell would it be wrong to let them know that our opinion of them would be immeasurably lower they do not immediately release her, or god forbid, something should happen to her?

Neil Sinhababu said...

I'd been planning to call this afternoon, but I'm holding off thanks to the apparent good news. I'm still registered in NC, but since my cell phone has a PA area code and I'm going to register there before the next election, that's where I'd call.

Don't be torn, Tony. Cultures don't feel anything; people do. And while there are dislocations that will cause problems to people when you try to change a culture, those must happen someday. When a culture is as brutal as this one, the important thing is to stop it as soon as possible.

Angelica's statements about this particular case also apply.

Julie said...

This yahoo article says "Aziz said last week any security measures were protective as Mai had expressed fears for her safety." Do you think there's any chance that's actually true?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Sounds highly implausible to me, Julie.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I foolishly deleted my link to the Yahoo article Julie is referring to, and I can't find it again. Oh well.

Rousseau said...

"Officious" must sound like a less harsh word to you all then it does to me. Pakistani government is being corrupt, cynical, backward, and overreactionary. And that fact should affect our foreign policy. My "only" meant this case is largely about the government's actions.

But common, be honest people. We're upset about the backward culture that gang-raped a woman for no reason and doesn't seem to have much resistance to letting her off the hook. Not just the government's actions. So to me, the question of how to balance concern for human rights with the failure of "white man's burden" is a pretty relevant one.

And no, cultures don't feel pain so I care more about the people in terms of utilitarian creatures. But analytically speaking, as a liberal I believe things about how to approach foreign cultures and respect what they believe. Not because the culture morally deserves it, but because you'll get a shitstorm if you don't.

Rousseau said...

Edit: Letting THEM (the rapists) off the hook.

Neil Sinhababu said...

This werewolf argues for braving the shitstorm.

Rousseau said...

Then how do you feel about burqhas? I think they are pretty clearly a sign of oppressing women and putting all responsiblity for sexuality on women and removing responsibility from men. Even women who want to wear them (so they can be respected for something besides their body) are a bad idea.

And yet telling countries they have to get rid of burqhas has generally gone horribly. Do you approve of France's measure banning them?

Of course there's a big distance between headwear and legalized rape... but philosophically they come from the same place (a culture that still oppresses women), and I don't know where to draw the line in interferance.

Julie said...

I'm sorry, I should have posted the link to that Yahoo article.

Of course there's a big distance between headwear and legalized rape... but philosophically they come from the same place (a culture that still oppresses women), and I don't know where to draw the line in interferance.

They do stem from the same place, but they differ in matters of degree, and our outrage should differ accordingly. If our foreign policy in matters of human rights is dictated by our level of outrage, then it makes sense that a highly outrageous matter would affect foreign policy, while a less outrageous matter might not.

Neil Sinhababu said...

If the burqa ban actually was effective in causing Moslems to adopt feminist attitudes, I'd support it. I don't see that this is the case, and I don't see any substantial positive consequences. I also endorse Julie's comments about degrees of badness (it's something that my utilitarian view incorporates pretty well).

Mukhtaran Bibi seems to be doing all the right things to generate social change that will replace all those fundamentalist Moslems with their friendly liberal descendants a century from now.

Rousseau said...

Well yes Neil the entire question is about effectiveness, I believe I said that. We're not arguing about utilitarian goals here.

And I feel the effectiveness of outside interference in cultures that have tribal councils that have rape of the sister as a punishment, is a serious question.

The particular case of whether we should write the Pakistani embassy for capriciously jailing a human rights worker, sure. But the reason she has received so much attention is because of the cruel and un-Western nature of her violation that led to this whole mess.

There is a large part of the world that makes women into third class citizens, accepts violence and parochial authoritarianism, and does not have democratic institutions. Children are abused, denied rights, and preventing from growing up into what we consider educated and free individuals. Do what extent are we we going to be effective or counter-productive in "Americanizing" them?

Although they greatly differ in degree, I find the burqas and tribal justice to be very much of the same set (and the difference degree of difference lessened because all women have to wear burqas). What is our algorithm for when to express support, and when to leave well enough alone?

Rebecca Neville said...

Watching the reaction in Saudia Arbia to the suggestion that women might be given the right to drive it seems to me that burkas and the social controls that come with them are dirrectly tied to using rape and violence against women as a tool to keep them in line.

Why if women could drive/go out with out burkas etc. then we won't be able to protect them and they will certainly get raped or dishonored. Similary any woman who does get raped baring extrodinary circumstances is easily assumed to have done something wrong or used to prove why women shouldn't go out.

Add to that the idea that a woman getting raped/having sex before marriage dishonors her male relatives it does not suprise me that much that rape can be viewed as a punishment. After all its already being used as a veiled threat to keep women in line/justify the control over their freedom of movement.

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