It is extremely difficult for me to recount those horrible moments, but I will do it for those thousands of sisters who are stuck in the grind of this society, this savage society. I will recount that sad story so I can be the voice for all my sisters who also suffered like me. I will do it so no court can just do paperwork and be a puppet for the government and victimize the victims. I will do it so every woman should be treated with respect.
Dr. Shazia in a statement to the Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Women
Dr. Shazia is a 32-year-old Pakistani physician who worked at a hospital run by Pakistan Petroleum Limited, a state-owned natural gas supplier in Baluchistan, a remote area of Pakistan. On 2 January 2005, Dr. Shazia was attacked and raped in her home, a guarded compound, by an intruder who broke in at night while she was sleeping. She reported the crime to the police despite intense pressure to keep silent, but instead of apprehending and punishing her attacker, the government of Pakistan has forced Dr. Shazia and her husband Khalid to flee the country under threats of death. Here is her story in her own words, as told to journalist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times:
It was a routine day. I left for the hospital and I locked the gate to my residence. At 8pm, I returned and unlocked the gate and then relocked it. I went inside and I ate dinner and said my prayers. I watched a little television and then went to sleep at 10pm. I was sound asleep, and I felt someone pushing my hair. At first, I thought I was dreaming. When he started pushing harder, I woke up. The room was dark. I felt him pushing my neck even harder and I couldn’t breathe. I tried to scream. I tried to shout for help. He took a cord, and put it around my neck and began strangling me. I yelled and fought to get away from him, but all my fighting was useless. I was helpless. I tried to reach for the phone that was beside the bed, but he took the receiver and hit me on the head, and then he raped me. I said to him, “For the sake of God, for the sake of Mohammad, I have not wronged you, why are you doing this to me?” He said, “Be quiet.” He told me there was a man named Amjad outside with a can of kerosene, and they would set me on fire if I didn’t keep quiet. I said to him, “You must have your own sisters, or daughters, or mother.” He told me to shut up. He blindfolded me with my scarf, he pistol-whipped me, and he raped me again. When he was done, he covered me with a blanket and tied my wrists with a telephone wire, but he didn’t leave. He stayed in my room and watched the English language television. I was badly beaten and I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was so scared I couldn’t breathe. Eventually, I tried to loosen the bindings on my wrist, and I was able to get a hold of scissors to free myself. I then fled to the home of one of the nurses. I was in trauma and shock. I didn’t say it, but she could see that I had been raped.
Doctors of Pakistan Petroleum were called in, but they told Dr. Shazia not to tell the police about the rape. They later told the authorities that she did not want to pursue the case. Her head was bleeding from the attack, but they let her sit there without tending her wounds and would not let her contact her family. Instead they sedated her and sent her secretly by charter airplane to a psychiatric hospital in Karachi, from which her brother and sister-in-law brought her home and contacted her husband Khalid, who was working in Libya. In her words:
Khalid immediately called me, and I told him everything that happened. He said he was with me and that I was innocent and that I should go give a statement to the police. He told me not to worry and that it wasn’t my fault. On January 9th the police took my statement. We were told by the military intelligence that within 48 hours, the culprit would be caught. We were then moved to another house by the government. We were held there under house arrest. I wanted justice. I know the government knows who the culprit is. A military intelligence officer told us they knew, but they haven’t done a thing. In the capital, while we were under house arrest, we saw the President on television. He said that my life was in danger. Meanwhile, Khalid’s grandfather declared that I was “kari” [a stain on the family honor] and that Khalid should divorce me and that his family should not have anything more to do with me. I thought I was going to be killed to save the honor of Khalid’s family. If I was to be murdered, I thought I should commit suicide. I took a knife, and I went to the bathroom. Khalid sensed what was happening, and he and my adopted son came to stop me. My adopted son said to me, “Mum if you kill yourself, I will also kill myself.”
The government forced Dr. Shazia to sign a statement saying that she had been given government help and that she wanted to close the matter. Officials let it be known that if she did not sign, it was likely she and her husband would end up dead. She was told that the safest thing for them was to leave Pakistan. She was told that if she tried to take action against Pakistan Petroleum, they would make life very difficult for her family. The case had already provoked additional unrest among tribal residents in Baluchistan hostile to government forces there. So she left the country with her husband, but the government would not let her son go with them. She was also told not to go and see any human rights organizations. Dr. Shazia is effectively in exile, and she has been unable to get political asylum in Canada where she has family. She would like to see justice done. In her words:
The government of Pakistan must understand that a basic need of their country is to provide justice to the victims. They must care about the rights of women. And if unfortunate incidents like mine occur, justice should be given to the woman. They shouldn’t do what they’ve done with me. They’ve exiled me and my husband and closed my case. The culprit is still able to walk the streets of Pakistan. It is not an example of justice. They need to know that women are also part of the country.
According to press reports cited by the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, a non-governmental organization, more than 10,000 women are raped every year in Pakistan, although the real figure is thought to be much higher. As in all countries, women are often reluctant to report rape, for social reasons as well as distrust of the judicial process. In Pakistan, there are additional legal barriers to pursuing a rape conviction. The rape law itself, one of the offenses of zina under the Hudood Ordinances, requires either the confession of the perpetrator or the eye-witness testimony of at least four Muslim adult male witnesses to the rape. If she is unable to prove rape, a woman who reports rape to the police is vulnerable to prosecution herself under the Hudood Ordinances for fornication if she is unmarried or adultery if she is married. In addition to these formidable legal barriers to the prosecution of rape, there have been several reports of police involvement in rapes and gang-rapes and of police protection of those accused of rape, particularly when they are from influential families. Women who have been raped are also at risk of “honor” killings, whereby a male relative kills them because they are thought to have dishonored the family’s name in the community by transgressing social norms, which is seen to include having been raped. It has been estimated that on average one thousand “honor” killings take place each year in Pakistan.
Even the Pakistan Government’s National Commission on the Status of Women has recommended repeal of the Hudood Ordinances on the grounds that they are discriminatory towards women and not in accordance with Islamic injunctions. They are also contrary to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Pakistan is a party, and to the Constitution of Pakistan, which states at Article 25 that “(1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled for equal protection of law. (2) There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.”
Please write to the Pakistani officials listed below. Ask them to take immediate steps to ensure the repeal or amendment of the Hudood Ordinances to remove the discrimination against women and ensure that women who have been raped receive equal protection under the law in accordance with Pakistan’s own Constitution and its obligations under CEDAW. Urge them to ensure that Dr. Shazia’s case is immediately and fully investigated and that those responsible for her rape, as well as those who threatened Dr. Shazia with death or other harm, are brought to justice. Please also write to the Canadian authorities to ask that Dr. Shazia, Khalid and her adopted son be allowed to live and work in Canada where they have relatives and are hoping to resettle. Letters should be addressed to:
General Pervez Musharraf
President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
To e-mail President Musharraf, please go to: http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx
Mr. Muhammad Wasi Zafar
Minister of Law, Justice & Human Rights
S-Block, Pak Secretariat
The Honorable Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Jean-Edmonds South Tower, 21st Floor
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1, CANADA