A friend passed on an article in the Guardian Unlimited that featured a haunting video of a teenage girl being flogged by a Taliban member in Swat Valley, [see YouTube video above]. According to the news agency, “The two-minute video, shot using a mobile phone, shows a burka-clad woman face down on the ground. Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly.” In the clip, the girl continuously cried out in pain, begging, “Please stop it…Either kill me or stop it now.” The woman received 34 lashes.
The Guardian reportedly reached Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan by phone, who confirmed the incident, noting, “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross.” Added The Guardian, “He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.”
The news agency received the mobile phone video from Samar Minallah, a Pathan documentary filmmaker and anthropologist who lived in Swat for two years in the late 1990s. It has since been passed between Swat residents by mobile phones. The incident reportedly occurred in the last ten days, and Minallah told the Guardian, “This video is being widely circulated because the Taliban want people to see it. They want to give the message that this is taking place after the peace deal because this is something they ideologically believe in.”
The Guardian added, “Local sources including journalists and human rights workers, some of whom declined to be identified, confirmed the video was recent, although estimates of its timing varied between one and three weeks ago. The Taliban spokesman said it predated the peace deal.”
Regardless of whether the video was filmed before or after the peace deal, the images shook me. The sight of a young girl crying out as she was beaten literally made my stomach turn. If this did occur after the peace deal, then I ask our politicians to look at Mullah Fazlullah‘s warped version of Islamic law that they have legitimized in our country, as they sit in the comfort and safety of their homes, untouched by the screams and whimpers of other men and women just like her. The Guardian also cited a Swat official with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Sher Muhammad Khan, who stated, “They have committed so many atrocities since the peace deal. They have taken entire control of the district. There is nobody to control them; they decide disputes according to their whims.”
I wrote this post yesterday, but I delayed posting it because I wanted to share a powerful and fitting song I listened to as I composed it, [see mp3 below]. Written and performed by my brother, an aspiring singer-songwriter, the chorus goes, “You will let me, keep what’s left outside/I will follow with the battles that we cry/We will let go of the secrets and the lies/FALLEN DAYS/These are FALLEN DAYS.” The lyrics and the feel of the song echoed my sentiments exactly. Tell me – how are we supposed to call for justice for the people of Swat – for girls like the one filmed here – when our government has essentially allowed for this legal system to be put in place? Can we help if our hands are tied?