PAKISTAN: (URGENT APPEAL) Stop sexual abuses in conflict zones

PAKISTAN: (URGENT APPEAL) Stop sexual abuses in conflict zones

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IHRC Hong Kong started this petition to National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) (NCSW) and

Rape has traditionally been used as a strategic tool to oppress and subjugate the enemy, the effect of conflict on women is manifold who have to face the burnt of war initiated and perpetuated by men. Pakistan army is no stranger to rape allegations many army personnel have reportedly been found to have raped and harassed women in war zone from Bangladesh to Balochistan, Swat and now North Waziristan  the military has been leaving a trail of destruction and woes behind it.

The gravity of the issue came to the forefront after a video of a young boy  named Hayatullah from Khaisor resident, went viral on social media earlier this year. In the video interview, the boy claimed security forces had picked up his father Jalat Khan and brother Adil and that the family was still facing harassment due to frequent visits by two security personnel. Hayat Khan recounted how four months after the security forces picked up his elder brother and father, soldiers regularly barged into their house in North Waziristan’s Khaisor village to make various demands. Accusing the security personnel of repeatedly entering his house unannounced, he requested the authorities concerned to stop the unwanted visits.

 

Sadly the matter was forcibly silenced using a jirga against the family. The tribal belts are extremely patriarchal where a women’s honor is a matter of life and death, women are restrained within the confines of their home and can not venture outside without a male chaperone. No man is allowed inside a home in the absence of a male member of the household. The military men are purportedly raiding the houses of those they eye with suspicion scorning the Pashtun honor. The aggrieved woman and mother of Hayatullah had to speak  publicly about the humiliation she says she felt when security forces repeatedly visited her home while all male family members were away.

“The soldiers once told me to make beds for them because they would spend the night inside our house if my son didn’t come to surrender,” she said. In the video her face was covered by a burqa or veil that women in conservative parts of Pakistan use to cover themselves from head to toe.

Hayat’s mother was unwilling to share her name or show her face because of the risk to her security. “I am now publicly speaking because I am sick of the humiliation and dishonor. I am speaking out to protect myself,” she said.

 

Recently another case was reported through social media about an incident in restive Mohmand agency where a woman shot dead an army personnel who tried to enter their house and tried to rape the women present. According to reports the security personnel raided the house of one Bakhtullah situated in  Syed Khan Mahmed Gad tehsil Safi district Mohmand. In contravention to the tribal code and moral decency the personnel barge in the house in the absence of male member and harrass the women folk one of whom killed a personnel  when he tried to rape them. The alleged harassment of women and children by the security forces in northwestern Pakistan’s restive region has provoked outrage and protests.

 

The incident infuriated the people of the areas who protested against the incident and demanded an inquiry. The protesters stated that there can be no justification for state agency officials to enter a private home and threaten to rape a woman.

A delegation of prominent women’s rights activist also visited the area to investigate the matter to their horror they found that this was not an isolated incident many woman came forward where their own horror of facing harassment at the hands of security officers. Such cases are reminiscent of Bangaldesh war when thousands of women were rape and murdered by the Pakistani army officers many who did survive rape later committed suicide.

The delegation offered a grim view of life in the tribal belt, as per the initial report of the group many women told us that if their husbands or other male relatives are involved or suspected of any wrongdoing, the security forces can detain and investigate them, but they should not barge into our houses.

The group stresses that these cases are merely a tip of the iceberg as there are many cases of sexual abuses by the Pakistan army but the women are reluctant to speak out due to fear of tarnishing the family honor.

The army propaganda machinery sprang into action questioning the chastity of the woman- the run of the mill excuse used in the defense of the rapist. It has now been established that the intruder was indeed an army personnel and that rape was indeed indented, yet the group of bloggers on army payroll are calling out those demanding justice as traitor and malinger of a “sacrosanct state institution” that can do no wrong.   

The 2002 case of Dr Shazia who was raped by a army high ranking officer in Dera Bugti Balochistan is another instance where the perpetrator was given impunity as he belonged to an institution that has unbridled and unquestionable authority over the innocent people of Pakistan. When the people of Balochistan protested the incident the then President Musharraf- a military dictator- promised that the tribesmen would "not know what hit them." and attacks on the Bugti tribesmen were intensified.

The state excess against victims demanding justice is inexcusable and unacceptable, the state and law enforcement agency can’t expect peace in the region where loot, plunder and heinous crime such as rape are institutionalized and given blanket impunity.

The International Human Rights Council (IHRC) urges the concerned authority to conduct an impartial and unbiased inquiry into all incidents of rape, threat of rape and harassment suffered by the women of tribal area. Those found guilty should immediately be stripped of all authority and given prescribed punishment. The entire Tribal and FATA region resembles a battle-scarred wasteland ruled by fear where civilians still feel trapped between the security forces and the militants, the region had been held hostage by elements who are destroying the peace and tranquility of the picturesque land. The state must play its part to alleviate the status of the region and address the grievances of the people.

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