Welcome to the worst TRUE story nightmare you have ever heard.
PAKISTAN – Zainab Zia, age 24, innocent victim:
• Raped by her brother-in-law, Mohammad Ali (member of the MQM party)
• Zainab and her sister, Shehla Zia, went out to file a complaint but were stopped by the mother “who wished to resolve the issue at home”
• Zainab and Shela got into a heated discussion with Ali, and the two girls were tied up and acid and kerosene thrown on them. Fortunately the girls were rescued before they were lit on fire.
• Girls tried to file a report, but were blocked by MQM leaders.
• Threats from militant MQM members were given to the girl’s family; as a result the girls lost support of their family.
• In October, the chairman of MQM Union Council used his authority to arrange for Zainab and Shela’s forced admittance into a psychiatric hospital. They were forced to flee to a shelter.
• Mr. Saleem Qaudri, a family friend, volunteered to protect Zainab. Because of legal and cultural reasons, they were forced to marry and Zainab became his one of many wives in polygamy.
• Mr. Saleem Qaudri was arrested on charges of rape, kidnap and theft. He was fortunately released when he showed the marriage certificate.
• Zainab’s rape case finally goes to court, the investigation is suspended and Mohammad Ali and his comrades are let go on bail – all on the request of the MQM.
• Zainab asks for police protection and her request falls on unsympathetic ears. No protection is granted.
• Zainab goes to the high courts, where the investigation was stopped by the MQM and local police, and the case was dropped.
• Zainab gives up the law and holds a press conference. Two days later Zainab’s husband, Qaudri, and his guests were attacked in a Latifabad restaurant. Police intervened but refused to register a case. Neither did they accept the report of Qaudri’s medical examination.
• The original case of rape and acid-throwing is now pending in Session and District Court no. 6, Hyderabad, with no progress made.
Is your mouth hanging wide-open? This is not an isolated case in Pakistan. Let me repeat, this is not an isolated case in Pakistan. Something must be done to end this disgusting government corruption and complete lack of police enforcement. Not only is this not an isolated case in Pakistan, but women and girls are victims just like Zainab all over the world.
As the New York Times stated in their recent issue about women, this is the century of the rise of women and their victory over inequality and injustice. I believe this is true. Awareness, information, and free access to this information is KEY in this fight. Knowledge is important not only for personal wisdom and edification, but also a prerequisite to effective policy-making and on-the-ground work. Recently, the press has come out against the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as many of their projects have been ineffective due to a lack of understanding the problem, both contextually and practically (lack of data and information). So, what is to be done to obtain this information?
When I code stories like this for the WomanStats Database, I feel a little less helpless: I feel like I am actually doing something for Zainab and others like her. If it weren’t for the WomanStats project, Zainab’s voice would be lost in the cosmos of the many thousands of internet blogs and reports. WomanStats take these women’s experiences and immortalize their names and their stories in the Database, which will be accessed by thousands of researchers and policymakers.
Acid attack victims speak out
My blog today is a wake-up call – a call to all reading this to spread the word about the cause of women. Spread the cause, and tell them about WomanStats. Tell your friends, neighbors, everyone on your email list, co-workers, etc. about these issues facing women. I know that many wish to live in a “bubble” and see the world through “rose-colored glasses,” but this would not only be an apathetic, ignorant route, but also a destructive one. Destructive not only in Pakistan, but also in your own backyard.
Have courage. BELIEVE you can make a difference, and let the knowledge of Zainba and many women and girls just like her spread in every ear. Then, and only then, when knowledge is cultivated, will there be a victorious change.