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Through a camera phone darkly: Swat valley sadists and the attack on womens rights

It’s an echo of that (even grimmer, horribly grotesque in fact) mobile phone footage of another teenage girl being punished, filmed and then broadcast around the world as a “warning” and an “example”.

A couple of years ago a teenager was stoned to death in northern Iraq for supposedly having an illicit relationship with another teenager. (Essentially the crime was a perverted “honour” killing; see the special site set up in her – real – honour).

Now, though, there’s creepy mobile phone footage showing a 17-year-old girl being beaten in public in the heavily Talibanised Swat valley region in Pakistan. Again, it’s supposed punishment for the “moral crime” of having been in the company of a boy/man who was not related to her.

Link to the film footage here – though please be aware, the film is genuinely horrible to watch (I personally found her piercing screams the worst thing of all). So, please don’t view it at all if you have any concerns that you might find it too disturbing.

So, what are these sadists up to? Why, as apparently was the case, film themselves and deliberately arrange for the images to be distributed far and wide? It’s clear they’re not just gloating. It can only be that their “message” is something like: We can do this. We’re in control. Girls, women … look at this. Beware.

The Guardian’s got a detailed account of the politics behind all this – two ultra-conservative Islamic groups (one the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, the other, the Pakistani Taliban) brokering a deal with the enfeebled central government in Islamabad and taking over a big area of the country.

I personally didn’t know that this valley was once a popular Pakistani ski resort (the country’s only one); now it’s a virtually closed area where foreigners (and others) are at risk of kidnap and women’s rights have been traded away. See more on this from me in a post I did on the Swat valley a while back.

The emergence of this Swat footage just a few days after reports that President Karzai has also traded away women’s rights in neighbouring Afghanistan rings another alarm bell. Analysts are saying that Karzai is playing politics, pretty unpleasantly at that. Apparently it’s a case of: give Afghanistan’s Shiite extremists new laws (allowing rape within marriage and forbidding women to go out of the house); in return Karzai gets their political support. 

Beyond the politics though, the point in both cases is surely a simple one. Girls and women shouldn’t be getting brutalised in public, or raped by violent husbands who can imprison them in their own home. Whether this is “justified” in the name of religious law, Islamic or otherwise, is not the point. Human rights for women is.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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