Pakistani women use jirga to fight for rights

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Women in Pakistan's Swat valley are making history, and perhaps some powerful enemies, by convening an all-female jirga, a forum for resolving disputes usually reserved for men. Some readers may find details of this report by the BBC's Orla Guerin disturbing.


Tahira was denied justice in life, but she continues to plead for it in death – thanks to a grainy recording on a mobile phone.

As she lay dying last year the young Pakistan wife and mother made a statement for use in court.

In the shaky amateur video, she named her tormentors, and said they should burn like she did.

Tahira's flesh was singed on 35% of her body, following a suspected acid attack. Her speech was laboured and her voice was hoarse, but she was determined to give her account of the attack, even as her flesh was falling off her bones.

"I told her you must speak up and tell us what happened," her mother Jan Bano said, dabbed her tears with her white headscarf. "And she was talking until her last breath."

Tahira's husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid. Her mother plans to appeal against that verdict, with help from a new ally – Pakistan's first female jirga.

Under the traditional – and controversial – jirga system, elders gather to settle disputes. Until now this parallel justice system has been men-only, and rulings have often discriminated against women. The new all-women jirga, which has about 25 members, aims to deliver its own brand of justice.

Written By: Orla Guerin
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

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  1. Very courageous. Let’s just hope it doesn’t fire up some village idiot into a murderous rage.

    That picture provides a window into the middle ages; it’s certainly time for positive development in that neck o’ the woods.

  2. “Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.” “Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid.” “Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.”They broke her arm in three places, and they strangled her,” she told me, putting her hands to her own throat to mimic the action. “They broke her collarbone. They glued her mouth and eyes closed. Just her face was left, the rest was flesh and broken bones.”

    Women (and men) rising up within the Muslim community is a good thing. Muslims cry out that we judge them by their extremists and that they are actually a religion of peace. Yes we do judge them by their extremists and those that do these horrendous deeds. We also look at the more moderately religious and see their wives and daughters dressed in black from head-to-toe or with their head covered and realize that they are not viewed with the same human rights and dignity that I am. We find this unacceptable as well. I wish these women much luck and strength.

    • In reply to #2 by QuestioningKat:

      “Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.” “Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid.” “Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.”They broke her arm in three places, and they strangled her,” she…

      So what about the West? Do you judge us by our extremists as well? These women live in the part of Pakistan that has the most attacks by US drones. Lets start with the extremists who regularly launch drone strikes on these women and their family because someone in the area is suspected of being a terrorist. People are murdered with no trial, no chance to defend themselves, not even a warning. As to how many actual terrorists are killed we have no way of knowing because the US won’t officially talk about the program, it was a big step when they actually admitted they were even doing it a while ago although everyone knows.

      • “Lets start with the extremists who regularly launch drone strikes on these women and their family because someone in the area is suspected of being a terrorist. “

        Surely you can make a case against drone strikes without implying that the innocent civilians who are killed were actually targeted by the US. Did you read this article:

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/02/us-drone-strikes-afghan-civilians

        Re the OP, do you think the women’s jirga is likely to make a difference for these women? Worth a try, especially since it seems to have support from the local men. And the courts ruling that jirgas are illegal has not stopped the male jirgas making some particularly bad decisions.

        In reply to #3 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #2 by QuestioningKat:

        “Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.” “Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid.” “Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.”They broke her arm in three pl…

        • In reply to #5 by Marktony:

          Surely you can make a case against drone strikes without implying that the innocent civilians who are killed were actually targeted by the US.

          I never said the US targeted them intentionally. I don’t see the difference and neither do the people being attacked. This is a standard Western bit of sophistry “sure we kill civilians but we don’t mean to” as if that makes a difference.

          Imagine the following: terrorists plant a bomb along some parade route and in the process kill one of the US generals responsible for the war in Afghanistan. Their justification is that the “collatorall damage” was a necessary price to pay. Would we think that was a justification? Of course not.

          And the other issue is due process. We have no way of knowing if any of the people killed in these attacks are terrorists. The whole thing is done in secret. The pentagon assures us that they take every effort to minimize civilian casualties but I no more believe them than I would believe the Taliban or any other military organization giving their side of how they wage war.

          Yet in the West we wring our hands about all those barbaric Muslims and say barely a word about our crimes. That is the point, these women are incredibly brave to stand up to the injustice in their country. For people in the West to proclaim that same injustice is trivial, there is no risk or responsibility associated with it. Indeed its just the herd instinct, our side good, there side bad. The equivalent action for people in the west to what these women are doing is to speak out against our crimes.

          And I would also bet you any amount of money that these women are as upset about the drone attacks as the are about their misogynistic culture. They caught between two cultures neither of which has much concern for innocent women.

          • “I never said the US targeted them intentionally.”

            No, you said:
            “Lets start with the extremists who regularly launch drone strikes on these women and their family because someone in the area is suspected of being a terrorist.

            “Yet in the West we wring our hands about all those barbaric Muslims and say barely a word about our crimes.”

            Like I said, you can make a good case against drone strikes and many have. I’ve certainly heard plenty of arguments against them, haven’t you? For instance, they seem to kill more civilians than manned strikes – did you read the link?

            In reply to #6 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #5 by Marktony:

            Surely you can make a case against drone strikes without implying that the innocent civilians who are killed were actually targeted by the US.

            I never said the US targeted them intentionally. I don’t see the difference and neither do the people being attacked. This is a…

          • In reply to #6 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #5 by Marktony:

            Surely you can make a case against drone strikes without implying that the innocent civilians who are killed were actually targeted by the US.

            I would have given you a dozen ‘thumbs up’ for that comment. Alas, only one!!!

            I never said the US targeted them intentionally. I don’t see the difference and neither do the people being attacked. This is a…

      • In reply to #3 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #2 by QuestioningKat:

        “Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.” “Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid.” “Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.”They broke her arm in three pl…

        I’m am wrong, or is this an example of a tu quoque argument? I expect to be shown the error of my thinking, but that’s how you learn, right?

        • In reply to #14 by Nitya:

          In reply to #3 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #2 by QuestioningKat:

          “Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.” “Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid.” “Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.”Th…

          Thanks Nitya, I looked up tu quoque and it sure does seem to fit the bill. I learned a new term. It’s also an example of someone assuming they know the full intention of someone’s post by picking out one aspect and ignoring the rest. Notice how my well wishing of these women and men who support their efforts was ignored.

          • In reply to #16 by QuestioningKat:

            In reply to #14 by Nitya:

            In reply to #3 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #2 by QuestioningKat:

            “Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.” “Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid.” “Her beloved daughter Nurina was t…

            I’ve learnt so many new terms for various flaws in an argument that I’m very pleased with myself. I try hard not to succumb to faulty thinking but it’s a bit of a challenge. Regarding your post, I agree totally. The fact that drones are used doesn’t make their appalling treatment of women any less appalling.

          • In reply to #17 by Nitya:

            In reply to #16 by QuestioningKat:

            In reply to #14 by Nitya:

            I find that knowing terms for flawed thinking helps me to identify them quickly. Imagine if students are taught these at an early age….

            I find that I can appreciate the food, music, art, and other aspects of a culture, but when they hold onto sexists beliefs – no matter how small they are either irritating or unacceptable. I’ve caught a few subtle responses towards me from Muslim males (regarding sitting next to me on a train or answering a question when they are the bus driver.) I’ve been stunned and think to myself “You’ve got to be kidding.” The problem seems to not rest only with the extremists nor only in their communities.

          • In reply to #18 by QuestioningKat:

            In reply to #17 by Nitya:

            In reply to #16 by QuestioningKat:

            In reply to #14 by Nitya:

            I find that knowing terms for flawed thinking helps me to identify them quickly. Imagine if students are taught these at an early age….

            I’m very happy to have learnt these failings of argument as I was only aware of the most obvious flaws such as generalising,hyperbole etc. The straw man fallacy, special pleading, arguing from ignorance, arguing from authority and my very favourite, the Gish Gallop, are all things I’ve picked up on this site. What’s more, I’m fairly confident of spotting them when they appear and avoiding such traps myself.

            Must get back on topic or I’ll get a message in bold, from the moderators. The image of this woman and child has lodged in my head and will take a while to fade. I think it’s a pity that the justice system has failed and recourse to a traditional jirga system is the only avenue. The message is not getting out to the population at large, that these crimes are vile and the perpetrators such be imprisoned for life!

            I haven’t personally encountered negative attitudes from Muslim men in our community except for the odd brusque bus driver, but I don’t come across too many in my area anyway so perhaps I should reserve comment.

    • In reply to #2 by QuestioningKat:

      “Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.” “Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid.” “Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.”They broke her arm in three places, and they strangled her,” she…

      I’m in Australia and I sincerely hope that not all Australians are judged as being like those people in our society that do horrendous things, There are extremists or extreme people in most societies. Australia is a “Christian” society, so our leaders tell us, and considered perhaps to be a nation of peace but we have people living in our society that do horrendous things to their own children; torturing, beating and murdering, men that rape, gangs that rape, we have horrific murders and indescribable serial murders as bad, if not worse than any other country on the planet.

      Judge not the majority by the extremists in any society, group or religion.

  3. Mods’ message

    In order to avoid derailing the discussion, please keep comments directly related to the OP. There may well be other threads at other times where a discussion about drones and other aspects of Western policy is more directly relevant.

    Thank you.

    The mods

  4. Reddog: I love your drone comment. But it’s hard not to judge people half way around the planet by the bad that’s done. Mostly because that’s the only thing we hear about. Not just Pakistan, but all over. Most americans, me included, can’t wrap our minds around such incredible atrocities. It’s like the muslim extremists, they give all muslim people a bad reputation in our narrow minds. I can’t imagine how these killers were acquitted, though. Unless their judicial system operates like ours. We have the best judicial system money can buy.

  5. In any context ‘extremism’ is a relative term and in the Swat valley the cultural norms define what law is tolerated. The heartwrenching narrative of how these women are treated, with cynical, automatic contempt and cruelty, makes it difficult for many of us not to ‘avoid derailing the discussion’ as the Mod’s request. Here in civilisation, where individual’s lives are valued and not cheap, we have forgotten how recently the West showed very similar behaviours. This ‘culture’ needs looking directly in the eye.

    BTAIM…

    All most of these people have is Authority upon which to base their decisions and behaviours. It’s built in to the society and their ‘education’ is merely an extension of that, bringing nothing new or offensive to the status quo. Any approach which can bring Knowledge into the equation, through some real education, it seems, would offer the best way out of their dystopic mindset.

    ‘Small-minded’ is a literal description of these men. They have never understood justice as we would recognise it, the neural pathways were never established. I find myself bemused that the West send drones, when support for television, satellite broadcasts, mobile networks, targeted radio broadcasts and rural education are largely untargeted, except as afterthoughts. I salute these ladies for their courage and hope for their success, though the sentiment’s shadowed by a rather sad feeling of pessimism about their future.

  6. So what about the West? Do you judge us by our extremists as well?

    Yes, I take personal offense by any group trying to limit, destroy, or discriminate basic human rights of women. It could an ocean away or in my own community. Countless people fought, died, were tortured, discriminated against, and worked their butts off so that I as a woman could have a better life. In the past few years, women’s rights have been attacked. I take offense that we have politicians trying to control my choices with my own body and create legislation that imposes restrictions on my choices. It is shocking to me that people I know and respect, support them with their votes because of their religious stance and agenda. They are trying to take us backwards and this is unacceptable.

    You have conflated the view I expressed about the Muslim community and are trying to create a comparison with the entire West. My issue is with any group that has sexist views of women whether it is as extreme as violence and abuse or as subtle as a minor imposition intended as keep a “woman in her place.”

    My apologies Mods, my view was personally questioned and it needed a reply.

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