8 Stories of “Vanishing” Muslim Women (Slideshow)
While Muslim women aren’t simply vanishing into thin air as this graphic suggests, it seems that their rights are — if, that is, they even had any in the first place. Whether we’re talking about honor killings in Pakistan, punishment for “moral crimes” in Afghanistan, exclusion from sports and driving in Saudi Arabia, or beheadings in New York, many Muslim women face severe restrictions and abuse that peg them as second-class citizens at best, practically non-humans at worst. Here are 8 stories of women — one for each panel of the graphic above — who’ve had their basic human rights violated for the sake of upholding religious traditions. Please share their experiences. Hopefully, the more people aware of these injustices, the more who will take steps to actually stop them from happening.
From Human Rights Watch’s report “I Had to Run Away”
Shayla is a 25-year-old Afghani woman. Her husband informed her that he didn’t want a divorce, but was going to marry another woman. Shayla decided to run away from him, which is a punishable crime in Afghanistan on the grounds that it can lead to adultery and prostitution. Shayla was arrested and served one year in prison. She wants a divorce from her husband, but hesitates at the possibility of losing her son to her in-laws.
Also from HRW’s “I Had to Run Away”
From the report:
Gulnaz, a young woman from Kabul, was raped in 2009 by the husband of a relative, and became pregnant. When the police learned of the case, they arrested both Gulnaz and the man who allegedly raped her. Either disbelieving or disregarding Gulnaz’s accusation of rape, prosecutors instead charged both Gulnaz and her attacker with [having sex outside of marriage]. Both were convicted. Gulnaz was sentenced to 12 years in prison…and gave birth to her daughter on the floor of Badam Bagh prison.
3. Souriya Y.
Also from HRW’s “I Had to Run Away”
Souriya Y. is also Afghani. When she was 12, her brother ran away with a girl. As compensation, Souriya’s family forced her to marry a member of the girl’s family. She bore her first child at age 13 and was abused at the hands of her husband. He eventually accused her of zina — having sex outside of marriage — and of running away. She was consequently sentenced to over five years in prison, during which time she gave birth to a son who only survived for three weeks. Her husband re-married two days after her arrest.
From Care2′s Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
Zahra is a “bacha posh,” or an Afghani girl whose family encourages her to dress up as a boy. Why? Boys have a much greater worth to families both in terms of honor and potential income. Here’s Zahra’s take:
People use bad words for girls…They scream at them on the streets. When I see that, I don’t want to be a girl. When I am a boy, they don’t speak to me like that.
5. Aasiya Hassan
From Care2′s Ximena Ramirez
Aasiya Hassan was 37 and lived in a suburb of Buffalo, NY. From Ramirez’s article:
Aasiya Hassan…was no stranger to her husband’s violent streaks. After multiple episodes of domestic violence, she filed for divorce in early February to escape her husband…She had also obtained an order of protection that barred him from their home, but still she was not safe.
On February 12, 2009, Hassan, 44, brutally beheaded his wife and then went to the Orchard Park Police station to report her death.
6. Angkhana Neelapaijit
Angkhana Neelapaijit lives in southern Thailand, an area that is both 80% Muslim and racked by religious warfare. Her husband, a human rights lawyer, disappeared in 2004. Neelapaijit suspects members of the local government and police force were involved. Not only is she at a loss to explain where her husband is, but the officer suspected of abducting him was acquitted, and she was threatened for pursuing the case. She established Working Group on Justice for Peace in 2006 to help people like herself fight for some sort of retribution, but still faces many obstacles. Widows of men killed by insurgents have to forgo $10,000 worth of government aid and somehow support their families on their own. In Neelapaijit’s case, her husband hasn’t been declared dead, just disappeared. She has to wait more than 90 years to be officially declared a widow and may not remarry in the meantime. As she says:
It’s not the religion that violates women–it’s when men interpret it in their own way for their benefit.
7. Shaima Jastaniah
From Care2′s Kristina Chew
Shaima Jastaniah is a Saudi woman who was sentenced to ten lashes in 2011 for driving. She lived in Houston, Texas for ten years, where she enjoyed driving on a regular basis. When she moved back to her native country, she was in for a very rude, unjust awakening. From Chew’s post:
Even with her international driver’s license, she is not allowed to drive the SUV there. Instead, she has to employ a male chauffeur, who is a stranger to her. As she is now gainfully employed, her parents leave it up to her to pay the driver’s salary. That renders her inability to steer the vehicle doubly galling, she says. In her view, the prohibition against female driving has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with the maintenance of patriarchal rule.
8. Kainet Soomro
From Care2′s Mhaire Fraser
Kainet Soomro is a young Pakistani woman. When she was 13, she was abducted while shopping, held prisoner, and eventually raped by four different men. According to tribal tradition, she was designated a “black female” for having sex outside of marriage, and her family was then saddled with the responsibility of killing her to preserve their honor. They thankfully refused and instead pressed charges. Kainet’s attackers then took matters into their own hands (again) and killed her brother in her place.
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Photo Credit: Boushra Almutawakel