12/17/2011, 00.00
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Women, the first victims of Taliban violence in Pakistan's tribal areas

by Shafique Khokhar
A report published by the Human Rights NGO Khwendo Kor documents cases of abuse, including honour killings, rapes, mutilations and acid attacks. Government inertia gives extremists control of Fata. Vicar of Faisalabad: punish practices against women. Muslim Activist: united against violence.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "Five Muslim extremists raided the house and cut off my cousins breast because she was breastfeeding her child. A member of the gang then ordered the women to eat the remains. " This horror told by Kiran Bibi is just one of many "tales of ordinary madness" that come from the tribal areas of Pakistan, that are Taliban-controlled with the tacit consent of Islamabad. The 22 year old Cheryl Shaz – both names are fictitious, ed – from the Jalozai refugee camp adds: "A security guard forced me to have sex with him, in exchange for cooking oil and a handful of beans." The incidents described are just two of many stories published in the report "Impact of the crisis on women and girls in FATA", the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, published by the organization Human Rights Khwendo Kor - the home of sisters , in Pashto - with the support of women's groups of the United Nations. The document contains the stories of everyday violence, long unchecked, in north-western Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.

The area is controlled by the Taliban, to which the central government in Islamabad has granted broad powers - including the introduction of Islamic law, Sharia - in order to reach a truce with the Islamists. Since the end of the war between the army and militia, women are the most affected by extreme violence, in particular, the two groups most at risk are widows and young girls. Forced sexual relations in exchange for food, water, basic necessities, women prefer not to use the showers and facilities, the lack of privacy, an increase in honor killings against women first raped and then excluded because considered a " disgrace "the family which then kills them. Added to this is a progressive decline (from 39 to 19%) of the influence "female participation" in Pakistani society, the inability to gain their inheritance rights in shariah courts, claims of land ownership that go unheard, unheeded .

A dramatic situation that provokes the angry reaction of Christian and Muslim activists and intellectuals, who are appealing to the government and the international community to intervene to protect the rights of women, stemming the progressive "Islamization" in Pakistan. The editor and journalist Farrukh Shahzad speaks to AsiaNews of a "painful reality" and "deteriorating conditions", despite the efforts made by organizations and nongovernmental organizations. He turns to politicians and statesmen, so that "they understand the seriousness of the matter", even the media, he adds, "are limited in their access to the populations of FATA because of the militia fighters." He is echoed by Amina Zaman, Muslim activist for human rights, that the situation does not just regard FATA, but a large part of Pakistan and invites civil society "to speak out against this terrible violence against women."

The vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad links this violence to the government bill, in the approval process, which aims to "punish practices against women." "It's an attempt at resistance – says Fr. Khalid Rasheed Asi - to make it clear that the government will not accept laws favorable to women in the FATA. " Shazia George, women's rights activist, rattles off all the "serious abuses" that underlie women in Pakistan: genital mutilation, acid attacks, rape and murder, she adds, in the vast majority of crimes go unpunished . The Christian activist hopes that those responsible for "inciting hatred of gender" are arrested and punished. We need, she concludes, models of "resistance to injustice," equal access to legal protection and respect of women's rights.
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