An Open Letter to Hina Jilani

Muhktar Mai, Pakistani gang rape victim

Hina Jilani is a Pakistani women’s rights activist, an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a  former U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, and a co-author of the Goldstone Report.

Dear Hina Jilani:

Greetings! I am familiar with and an admirer of your work as a Pakistani feminist and human rights lawyer, one who has gone on record opposing both honor killing and rape and the inadequate legislation against such crimes in Pakistan.

In 1999, you handled one very high profile honor killing case, that of a Pakistani woman, Samia Imran (aka Samia Sarwar), whose physician mother and politically powerful father arranged that she be shot to death in your office because she dared to seek a divorce from a dangerously violent Pakistani husband. I wrote about this case in 2004-2005 and have written about it again any number of times since then.

I have tried to imagine what you and your staff have felt. I am friendly with a Turkish-German lawyer whose battered 15-year-old client was shot to death in her office in Berlin; the lawyer herself was shot and left for dead as well. Clearly, she lived. But we did talk about the effect this murder has had on her forever after.

Perhaps you are familiar with my work in general and in the area of honor killings; perhaps not. I have published fifteen books, including the landmark Women and Madness and Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman.  I have published two studies, written hundreds of articles, delivered speeches, given interviews, and written affidavits for girls and women who are now seeking asylum in the United States because they are at risk of being honor murdered in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe. Once, long ago, I lived in Kabul, Afghanistan and moved in Muslim circles.

Under other circumstances, we might have met, worked together, perhaps even befriended each other.

Sadly, that is not the case.

Yesterday, the Pakistani Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of five of the six men who were convicted in the 2002 tribal-council ordered gang-rape of Mukhtar Mai, perhaps the bravest woman in Pakistan, perhaps the bravest woman in the world. Instead of killing herself or turning bandit as did the famed Phoolan Devi after a similar gang-rape in India, she instead pressed charges and opened a school and a shelter for other similarly battered and raped Pakistani women.

We both know that Mukhtar Mai is supremely endangered by the release of these higher-caste rapists, as are all the women of Pakistan.

In February of 1983, you and your sister Asma spent 20 days in prison for demonstrating on behalf of a young blind girl named Safia Bibi. She—the rape victim—had been jailed in Pakistan for adultery. All perfectly legal and customary in Pakistan and in most other Muslim countries.

Thus, I was shocked—enormously saddened—when I realized that, as a long-time UN employee/professional you are also one of four people on the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict which produced the infamous Goldstone Report and which is now insisting that it be implemented, Goldstone’s recantation be damned. (I assume that you’ve read the many powerful and credible critiques of this Report. Here is only one.)

Here is why I am writing.

You know that false but lethal slander leads to the honor murder of girls and women in Pakistan, in the Islamic world, and among Muslim immigrants to the West. Yes, Hindus and Sikhs do commit honor murders in India, but rarely in the West, and their motives seem to be different. Allegations of “sexual impropriety,” true or false, vague or specific, are behind so many honor murders of Muslim girls and women in Pakistan and in other Muslim-majority countries. Such rumors as well as actual “sins”  have included: talking to a boy, not veiling properly enough, having an infidel friend, having academic ambitions, wearing makeup or wanting to wear Western clothing—and, of course, being raped, wanting to leave a violent marriage, refusing to marry a first cousin, etc.

Hina, please understand: The lies and slander that have been generated against Israel are every bit as false and unjust as the lies told to justify the honor killing of girls and women.

I once worked at the United Nations. In my opinion, it is completely ineffective save in two areas: It has legalized Jew-hatred with a vengeance and it has provided a High Life for many Third World/developing world professionals who wish to be well paid to live in the West and yet also wish to retain or achieve reputations as champions of justice. Therefore, I understand the price you would have to pay if you broke with UN-Think or with Third World Think which is so intensely anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israel—the convenient scapegoats for all the crimes and ills of the Arab and Muslim world.

Nevertheless, please think about the implications of my analogy.

Like an honor killing victim, Israel is being slandered so that the terrorist violence against it will be seen as justified and legitimate. When Israel exposes the Big Lies or tries to defend its civilian citizens against such pitiless violence, like the raped girls and women in Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries, Israel is blamed. She provoked it. She knew the rules. She knew she was meant to die if she stepped out of line by a millimeter; surely she knew that being born female was a capital crime, a death sentence.

Israel dares to live. It exists surrounded by Arab and Muslim countries that believe she has no right to exist and who have sworn to kill her.

Unlike Pakistan, or other Muslim countries, Israel actually prosecutes rapists. This includes the former president of the country, Moshe Katsav, who, on December 30, 2010, was convicted by a Tel Aviv court and sentenced to seven years in jail, beginning on May 7, 2011.

More important: Israel has given shelter to girls and women in flight from being honor murdered in Gaza and the West Bank, where honor murders are endemic and soaring due to Islamism, not to Israeli policies of self-defense.

Most recently, in March of 2011, Hamas beat, tortured, and arrested eight women journalists in Gaza, including Asma Al-Ghoul, a prominent advocate against honor killings both on the West Bank and in Gaza. She had been arrested before for appearing on the beach, dressed in Western clothing, with male colleagues and friends; she had actually dared to laugh and to swim in her clothing. She asked me to edit and publish her work on honor killings and I did so.

As a feminist and human rights activist, I assume you are aware of the extent to which honor killings are committed among Israeli Muslim Arabs (“Palestinian” citizens of Israel) and the extent to which Israel prosecutes such crimes. For example, seventeen years ago, Nadil Abu Hadir, an Israeli Muslim Arab citizen who lived in Jerusalem, honor killed his sister; he stabbed her to death in broad daylight in the central bus station and in full view of her three children. He then fled to Bethlehem, where the Palestinian Authority sheltered him for seventeen years. Only recently was he tried and convicted by an Israeli court for this crime and sentenced to life in prison. He was also ordered to pay each of his sister’s children 100,000 shekels.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, there were nine honor killings committed in Gaza in the first seven months of 2009. That is, nine known honor killings. As you know, most honor killings remain unknown. In Gaza, the most an honor killer can receive is three years; they are often sentenced to far less.

Here is what I am asking. Why are you prosecuting Israel so vigorously? Why are you not using your power at the United Nations to prosecute Pakistan for its abominable record in terms of human rights and women’s rights? Will prosecuting only Israel help Muhktar Mai or the world or the world’s women in some way that I cannot fathom?

Hina: I am not sure you will read this letter, but if you do, please contact me. We share many interests, views, even passions, but we most definitely part company on the relationship of the United Nations to the sovereign state of Israel and about what really happened in Gaza. I would like to talk this through with you if you are open to such a dialogue.

All best,

phyllis-chesler-full-size-220x300Phyllis Chesler

Article printed from NewsReal Blog:

URL to article: