• Disarming

    Women Battling Terrorism

    Women in Pakistan have successfully organized to help single out potential terrorists and militants in their communities.

    As Mossarat Qadeem tells the story, the big clue came from a simple source: a young woman who noticed her brother spending time with strangers.

    It was about one year ago in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly called the North-West Frontier province, when the 25-year-old woman noticed a group of men she did not recognize meeting in the evenings in a house on her street. Several young men from her area were attending these meetings, including her 18-year-old brother. Yet her brother wouldn’t tell her what it was all about. His secrecy sparked her suspicion, said Qadeem, founder and executive director of PAIMAN Alumni Trust, an Islamabad-based non-profit that, among other initiatives, works with mothers in some of the country’s most conflict-ridden areas to de-radicalize their sons. Thus far, she said, her organization has turned 455 individuals away from militancy.

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  • Evan Agostini/AP, Evan Agostini

    Activist

    Fighting With a Camera

    Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy talks about how she uses documentaries to oppose prejudice and intolerance from Iraq to the Phillippines.

    If Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy had a magic wand, the first thing she would do is fix intolerance. The 35-year-old journalist and filmmaker, whose 2012 film Saving Face won an Oscar for best documentary short film, has dedicated her life to telling the stories of those without a voice. “Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of highlighting the stories of marginalized populations, from Iraqi refugees in Iraq to reproductive health activists in the Philippines,” she told Women in the World.  “My travels have taught me one core thing: one can never really know what motivates and propels someone else until you spend some time in their shoes.”

    Women in the World caught up with Obaid-Chinoy in Bangladesh before she co-hosts the fifth annual Women in the World summit April 3-5 in New York City.

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  • Rizwan Tabassum/AFP via Getty

    Discouraging

    A Bad Week for Pakistani Women

    A week of murder, suicide, and gratuitous insult make a mockery of International Women's Day celebrations for the women of Pakistan.

    Following International Women's Day, Pakistani women faced a new wave of misogynistic persecution. Writer Rafia Zakaria detailed five events ranging from petty to monstrous, all occurring within a single week. On March 11, Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology declared that laws forbidding child marriage were "un-Islamic." Three days later, a rape victim immolated herself in front of the police station whose officers chose to free her alleged assailants. Another woman was buried alive after she chose the man she wanted to marry even after she was assured she would not be punished for her declaration. Shahid Afridi, a prominent Pakistani cricket player, told women to stay off the cricket pitch and remain in the kitchen. And on Friday, police beat more than 100 female nurses protesting outside the Punjab Assembly building. 

    Read it at Dawn
  • BELATED JUSTICE

    Pakistani Couple Found Guilty of Child Trafficking

    Deaf girl was raped, forced to work without pay, and made to live in a cellar.

    An elderly man who is accused of trafficking a girl from Pakistan to Britain when she was ten years old, then allegedly exploited and raped her, was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison last week. The man, Ilyas Ashar, age 84, collected the equivalent of $48,000 in government benefits in the girl’s name and forced her to sleep in a “sparse, cold and damp” cellar. When sentencing Ashar, the judge in the case condemned the couple as “pure evil” and “deeply unpleasant, highly manipulative and dishonest people.” Ilyas’ wife, Tallat Ashar, 68 years old, had already been convicted of trafficking and benefit fraud in an earlier trial, and the couple’s daughter was sentenced to 12 months of community service.

    Read it at The Independent
  • Malala Yousafzai adjusts her headscarf after receiving the 2013 Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at Harvard University on Sept. 27, 2013, on the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass. (Jessica Rinaldi/AP)

    Courage

    "Who Is Malala?"

    In her new memoir, Malala Yousafzai remembers the day leading up to the moment Taliban gunman ambushed her schoolbus and shot her for her activism.

    In the morning my parents came to my room as usual and woke me up. I don’t remember a single school day on which I woke up early by myself. My mother made our usual breakfast of sugary tea, chapatis and fried egg. We all had breakfast together—me, my mother, my father, Khushal and Atal. It was a big day for my mother, as she was going to start lessons that afternoon to learn to read and write with Miss Ulfat, my old teacher from kindergarten.

    My father started teasing Atal, who was eight by then and cheekier than ever. “Look, Atal, when Malala is prime minister, you will be her secretary,” he said.

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  • Akhtar Soomro

    Visionary

    Malala’s Teacher: Educate Pakistan’s Girls

    In the Swat tribal region, where Malala Yousafzai was targeted for speaking out about a girl’s right to go to school, her teacher Mariam Khalique is pressing parents to understand that educating girls is key to a stable and prosperous Pakistan.

    I feel proud when I tell people that I’m from Swat in Pakistan, with its green and mountainous valley. But I don’t feel proud about the number of women and girls where I’m from who are still being deprived of an education.

    Among the girls whom I have taught—girls like Malala Yousafzai, the young education activist whom the Taliban tried to assassinate—I see the dignity that education can offer. This is why I have dedicated my career to teaching, and why I am doing what I can to ensure all girls have the chance to go to school by supporting UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

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  • Humaira Awais Shahid. (Humaira Awais Shahid)

    CHANGE AGENT

    A Tale of Two Pakistans

    For women, there are two very different Pakistans, says journalist and activist Humaira Awais Shahid. As told to Adrienne Vogt.

    Pakistan is a very complicated place to understand. And it’s even more complicated for women.

    For women, the country is essentially divided into two. One Pakistan is made up of women who are journalists, parliamentary members, artists, and teachers—women who have a strong voice in shaping the country and are at times more educated than their male counterparts. These are women who would not be out of place in any major city, like London or New York. The other Pakistan, however, is full of poverty and judgmental attitudes toward women. The idea of a tribal code of honor still permeates these outlying, poorer areas. The divide between urban and rural women is quite striking.

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  • Supporters of India's main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) women's wing, scatter rose petals in front of a portrait of an Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, in Kolkata on September 7, 2013. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

    Horrific

    ‘We Killed Sushmita Banerjee’

    A renegade Taliban militia says they murdered the Indian author. By Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau.

    Around midnight late last week, half-a-dozen gunmen quietly scaled the 12-foot-high mud-brick wall surrounding the modest house and stealthily entered Janbaz Khan’s bedroom in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. They put a gun to his head, blindfolded him, and bound both his hands behind his back. They warned him not to move. “We are staying on top of you so don’t make a sound or we’ll shoot,” Janbaz later recalled them saying. He obeyed. In the morning his brother, who had been sleeping in an adjoining room, found him and removed the blindfold and cuffs. Immediately both men realized what had happened. They rushed to the bedroom of Janbaz’s wife, Sushmita Banerjee, the Indian author and health care worker, and discovered what they had feared. She had vanished.

    At three a.m. that night, an elderly woman in a neighboring village tells The Daily Beast that she was awakened by the sustained crackle of gunfire.  She thought a family was celebrating the birth of a baby boy. But what she actually heard were the sounds of Banerjee’s brutal execution. Nayab Khan, a 50-year-old villager, found her body, dressed in her night gown, dumped at the gate of a government school about one kilometer from her home. Although Banerjee’s face had been obliterated by several of the 15-20 bullets that police say her executioners had fired into her, Nayab immediately realized who the dead woman was.  “She was not wearing a normal Afghan village woman’s dress and chador,” he told The Daily Beast. “So I knew it was the Indian wife of Janbaz.”

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  • The daughters of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi pose with an image of their mother while standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura located in Pakistan's Punjab Province on November 13, 2010. (Adrees Latif/Reuters, via Landov)

    Pakistan

    For Blasphemy, A Death Sentence

    A new book chronicles the story of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian and mother accused of slandering the Prophet and condemned to hang.

    I’ve almost filled my bowl when I hear what sounds like a rioting crowd. I step back from my bush, wondering what’s going on, and in the distance I see dozens of men and women striding along towards our field, waving their arms in the air. I shrug my shoulders at Josephine. She doesn’t seem to know what it’s all about either.

    Then I catch the cruel eyes of Musarat. Her expression is self-righteous and full of scorn. I shiver as I suddenly realize that she hasn’t let it go at all. I can tell she’s out for revenge. The excited crowd are closer now; they are coming into the field and now they’re standing in front of me, threatening and shouting.

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  • Pakistani orphans watch an early screening of the first episode of the animate Burka Avenger Series, at an orphanage on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on March 25, 2013. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)

    Television

    The ‘Burka Avenger’ Backlash

    Faiza S. Khan on why we should be praising the Pakistani cartoon superhero, not criticizing her clothing choices.

    An exciting new show from Pakistan has caught the world’s attention, which was great for the five minutes before it was hijacked by a debate notable for its levels of misplaced angst. Burka Avenger, an animated show for children airing on Geo TV, opens in an idyllic green valley of happy, frolicking villagers reminiscent of the Swat region where Malala Yousafzai was shot. Soon their world changes with the arrival of a Taliban-like villain with a flowing beard and a corrupt politician based on Pakistani feudal lords. The local girls’ school is shut down, and all hope seems lost, until a shadowy figure emerges, a heroine draped in black, felling baddies under the cover of night. Turns out, she’s the village teacher, Jiya—a mild-mannered educationalist by day and a superheroine by night, using pens, books, and a considerable expertise in martial arts to bring peace back to her people. All this, and it boasts a really catchy theme song, “Don’t Mess With the Lady in Black.” With its focus on education and its strong female lead, the show seemed sure to win accolades for such a positive message directed at Pakistan’s youth.

    But the lady in black is being messed with—and not, as one would assume, by the local Taliban. Instead, Burka Avenger has taken a beating at the hands of the Western, and more recently the Indian, media, along with a handful of privileged Pakistanis. For while she teaches in a shalwar kameez with her head bare, the disguise she wears at night to pulverize those people threatening girls’ education is indeed a burka. So what the show’s really doing, it’s argued, is glorifying an instrument of oppression. Because the burka is evil, and so is anything that makes contact with it, it must follow, as day follows night ... Only it doesn’t follow, really.

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  • via YouTube

    NOT KIDDING

    Babies Given Away on TV Show

    Pakistani program presents babies to unsuspecting couples.

    Winning puppies? Maybe. Winning babies? No way. A primetime game show in Pakistan, which runs for seven hours a day during the month of Ramadan, gave away baby girls to couples during the show. One of the new, surprised mothers said, “I was really shocked at first. I couldn’t believe we were being given this baby girl.” The show is lined up to give away a baby boy within the next few days. “At Christmas there's Santa Claus to give everyone gifts, it's important for Christians. For us, Ramadan is a really special time, so it's really important to make people happy and reward them,” says the controversial show’s host, Aamir Liaquat Hussain. We’re all for winning a little cash on a game show, but having a baby dropped on your plate is a whole different story.

    Read it at CNN
  • The Burka Avenger. (Unicorn Black Production)

    SUPERWOMAN

    ‘Burka Avenger’ Coming to TV

    Pakistani cartoon’s main character is a female teacher fighting thugs.

    It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … Burka Avenger?! The Pakistani cartoon's main character is a teacher with secret ninja-like powers, fighting thugs who try to shut down her school. The show, which is the first animated series produced in Pakistan, is set to air in August. Even though it hits a little too close to home for some, creator and well-known pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid said it’s all for fun—but every episode centers around a moral lesson and stresses the importance of education for girls. Rashid said he chose a burka only because it gives a local flair to the show. “She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes,” said Rashid. “Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”

    Read it at The Associated Press
  • Eric Gay

    SAY AGAIN?

    Quotes Roundup: Huggers and Haters

    This week, everyone seemed to be on the defensive.

    Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis expressed some serious wrath toward Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the Texas abortion restrictions on Thursday. The bill, which goes into effect in October, bans abortions after 20 weeks, based on the disputed claim that fetuses can feel pain, and requires abortions to be done at surgical centers. Only five abortion clinics meet the new requirements. In a released statement, Davis said, “Governor Perry and other state leaders have now taken sides and chosen narrow partisan special interests over mothers, daughters, sisters and every Texan who puts the health of their family, the well-being of their neighbors, and the future of Texas ahead of politics and personal ambitions.”

    In San Diego, which Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy taught us is the classiest of all cities, Mayor Bob Filner was accused of sexual harassment. Filner vehemently denied the claims to San Diego television station KUSI. He refused to resign from office despite calls for him to step down. One woman, a volunteer for Filner’s campaign, alleges that he jammed “his tongue down her throat” and later put “his hand on the inside of her bra.” Even the mayor’s ex-fiancée accuses him of sending women sexually explicit text messages. The mayor has since apologized, but will still headline an event for sexual-assault victims.

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