Saturday, January 17, 2009

We will kill you if you go to school (Ingrid Robeyns & Mick Hartley)

Ingrid Robeyns, a Belgian philosopher and economist who teaches at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and occasionally posts at the group blog Crooked Timber, recently made an important point in a very careful and measured way. Responding to this news item ...
Take the latest one from the Taliban: they have warned that in North-West Pakistan they will kill all girls who still go to school on January 15th, and that they will blow up schools who will enrol female students after that date.
... Robeyns commented:
Among some groups of ‘Western’ feminists, perhaps especially within academia, there is a reluctance to draw attention to extreme instances of human rights violations in ‘non-western’ countries, especially in (predominantly) Muslim countries. The argument behind this position is that by highlighting the oppressions of women by some Muslim leaders or groups, one is playing into the card of Islamophobia, and contributing to the polarising rhetoric of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. [....]

I think such concerns are in many instances justified. Nevertheless from time to time I am struck by the intensity of the violence against women and girls by some groups or leaders in the world (and clearly this is by no means just a Muslim issue). Moreover, it would be hard to deny that it is of a different order than the disadvantages or hampering social structures experienced by mainstream groups of women in Europe or North America.
OK, some might find the way that Robeyns formulated her reflections a bit mild and even excessively apologetic (you can read her whole post HERE and judge for yourself). But her basic point is right and important.

=> For more on women's life in Swat with the Taliban (via the blunt and unapologetic Mick Hartley), here are some highlights:

PAKISTAN: Militants announce ban on girls' education in Swat
SWAT, 1 January 2009 (IRIN) - "They [Taliban] are savages and we're like a helpless herd, with no one to protect us," said Sikander Ali, father of four girls, speaking to IRIN on the phone from Swat valley.

He was reacting to news that militants had ordered a ban on girls' education from 15 January. Swat valley (in the North West Frontier Province), which has a population of 1.8 million and lies some 150km northeast of Peshawar, has been a hotbed of Islamist militancy for the past two years.

Ali, a government official, had heard the recent warning by Shah Dauran, deputy leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) of Maulana Fazalullah on a clandestine FM radio station. "He said we must take our daughters out of all schools - private or public - by 15 January 2009 at the latest. Failing this, he said the schools will be bombed and violators would face death. He also said they will throw acid into the faces of our daughters if we don't comply, like their counterparts did in Afghanistan some months back."

"It is feared that the extremists will carry out their threats," said Ibrash Pasha, provincial coordinator of the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE).

If this happens an estimated 40,000 girls will be kept out of school, said Dawn newspaper. [....]

In the past year education has been severely disrupted in the valley. There have been unannounced curfews, schools have been blown up or set on fire. The worst example was the attack on Sangota Public School in October.

Herald, a monthly newsmagazine, reported in August 2008 that there were 566 girls' schools in Swat, including four government higher secondary schools, 22 high schools, 51 middle schools and 489 primary schools. Of these, 131 have either been set alight or closed, rendering 17,200 girls school-less.

In the past year over 150 schools (most of them girls' schools), were destroyed - albeit when the pupils were absent.
One killed, Pakistan's dancing girls flee Taliban
Pakistan's celebrated dancing girls are fleeing in fear of their lives as Taliban militants increase their strength in the North-West Frontier Province.

The bullet-riddled body dumped in the centre of Mingora's Green Square sent two clear messages to people in the Swat Valley's largest town: "un-Islamic vices" will no longer be tolerated, and the Taliban are effectively in control.

The woman, known only as Shabana, was found slumped on the ground, strewn with banknotes, CDs of her dance performances and photographs.

Local Taliban commander Maulana Shah Dauran broadcast a warning on one of the group's radio stations: his men had killed her and if any other girls were found performing in the city's Banr Bazaar they would be killed "one by one".
Women Are Not Allowed in This Market
Markets: Taliban have also banned women from markets. “Women are not allowed in this market,” reads a banner installed in front of a three-storey market, which was once called ‘Women’s Market’. “We were dealing in women’s garments and cosmetics and were doing a reasonable business. However, we cannot even earn enough money to pay the rent and electricity charges of the shop since the ban has been imposed on women’s entry in the market,” said a shop owner.

Another shop owner said he had not seen a woman in the whole Mingora Bazaar in the past month. “They [Taliban] have ordered the killing of women seen in market areas,” he said. [....]
The Taliban in the North West Frontier
On the heels of their crusade against girls going to schools, the Taliban have now issued new dictum in the areas under their sway asking parents of the grown up daughters to marry them to militants or "face dire consequences".

This new force-marriage campaign is being run in most of the areas in the Pakistan's troubled NWFP through regular announcements made in mosques to congregations.

Such instances have come to light recently through some of the affected women daring to go to authorities for justice rather than meekly surrender to the militants’ dictates.

Salma, who teaches in a primary school in Peshawar, told the Dawn newspaper that Taliban have told families to declare in mosques if they have unmarried girls so that their hand could be given in marriage, most probably to militants. [....]

She also said the Taliban in the Swat valley of NWFP have threatened women with dire punishment, if they are found outside their homes without identity cards and a male relative accompanying them. [....]
--Jeff Weintraub