Wednesday, 29 August 2012

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It’s Not Honor Killing, It’s Murder by Bina Shah / August 21, 2012 - A British-Pakistani girl is killed to save her family’s “honor.” -parents have been given life sentences in jail

Sampsonia Way Magazine

It’s Not Honor Killing, It’s Murder

by Bina Shah  /  August 21, 2012  / No comments

A British-Pakistani girl is killed to save her family’s “honor.”

Shafilea Ahmed

Shafilea Ahmed. Photo: AslanMedia. Creative Commons Licensed

Delighted is the wrong word, but I’m very satisfied to hear about the conviction of 17 year-old Shafilea Ahmed’s parents, who murdered their daughter in Warrington, UK and dumped her body by the side of the River Kent. Shafilea’s crime? She refused to agree to an arranged marriage with her cousin in the Pakistani village of Uttam, Punjab.

  1. Pakistan is a country of contradictions – full of promise for growth, modernity and progress, yet shrouded by political, social and cultural issues that undermine its quest for identity and integrity. My bi-monthly column “Pakistan Unveiled” presents stories that showcase the Pakistani struggle for freedom of expression, an end to censorship, and a more open and balanced society.
  2. Bina Shah is a Karachi-based journalist and fiction writer and has taught writing at the university level. She is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. She is a columnist for two major English-language newspapers in Pakistan, The Dawnand The Express Tribune, and she has contributed to international newspapers including The IndependentThe Guardian, andThe International Herald Tribune. She is an alumnus of the International Writers Workshop (IWP 2011).

Shafilea’s parents have been given life sentences in jail, after a trial that saw many tense moments, including startling testimony by Shafilea’s younger sister Alesha, and Shafilea’s mother turning witness against her husband in an attempt to save her own backside from the full force of the law. Luckily this cowardly tactic failed, and the judge sent both parents to jail for murdering their daughter by suffocation with a plastic bag. They will serve a minimum of 25 years each, while their daughter will never get to see the ripe old age they’ll reach in jail.

I’m impressed with the British Government’s hardline stance on forced marriages, and the work the UK High Commission has been doing in Pakistan over the years to help girls who have been forcibly brought to Pakistan to be married against their consent. This is a crime against both the girls’ human rights and Islamic law, as consent from the bride is a necessary condition to a legal Islamic marriage. Forced marriage is a cultural tradition in Pakistan that needs to be stopped, not indulged or encouraged by any misplaced sensitivity to multiculturalism. A harsh jail term for Shafilea’s parents serves as a warning to others who might want to follow their example and place “honor” and “shame” above the sanctity of human life.

“Honor killing” is seen as something unique to Muslim countries and Muslim culture, where the definition of honor has a different meaning than it does in non-Muslim, Western cultures. In the UK, honor is a moral virtue, a slightly-old fashioned concept that reminds one of knights, duels, and valor in the battlefield. It has fallen into disuse as the more modern ideas of individual conscience, rule of law, and human rights have taken precedence.

But in Pakistan, an agrarian society bound to feudal and tribal codes of kinship and morality, honor is all-important. Not only does it define conventional standards of conduct, acting as a safeguard to families’ and clans’ esteem in society, but it has been irrevocably tied to the sexual conduct of women, so that honor is synonymous with female chastity. Anything a woman does to threaten the family’s honor is therefore subject to harsh punishment—although in many cases a so-called honor killing is enacted for many reasons besides the obvious: Revenge in a family feud, for example, or to retain land or wealth.

But Shafilea Ahmed’s case, and the way it’s being reported as an “honor killing” in the Western media, convinces me that we need to stop using the term. Instead we need to replace it with the word “murder”—because that’s what this is. We need to completely divorce the concept of honor from the act of murder. Terms like “honor killing” and “crime of passion” are euphemisms that attempt to attach a noble intention to the ultimate immoral act. They trivialize the murders of girls and women (and boys and men when they too are killed in the same circumstances), and refuse to acknowledge their rights, agency, and independence.

Let’s throw the term “honor killing” in the garbage where it belongs. Along with it, the animals who murder their own children just because they were threatened—because of their own ego and evilness, or the fear of losing wealth and property, or a warped sense of shame—by their children’s right to marry, or not, as they choose.

Here is a link to the UK High Commission’s Web site on Forced Marriage, with a number for you to call if you’re in any kind of danger.

About the Author

Bina Shah is a Karachi-based journalist and fiction writer and has taught writing at the university level. She is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. She is a columnist for two major English-language newspapers in Pakistan, The Dawn and The Express Tribune, and she has contributed to international newspapers including The IndependentThe Guardian, and The International Herald Tribune. She is an alumnus of the International Writers Workshop (IWP 2011).

View all articles by Bina Shah

Bahrain Center for Human Rights - Open Letter to the President of The Arab Republic of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat


Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Defending and promoting human rights in Bahrain

Open Letter to the President of The Arab Republic of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat

Johannesburg, August 27, 2012

Dear Mr. President: 

I write you in my capacity of The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Acting President, to express my deep disappointment and to protest the unlawful and hostile treatment I was subjected to at Cairo’s International Airport on Sunday, August 26, 2012 by the Egyptian security forces. 

I had a 7-hour layover in Cairo and was going to enter the country to see Egyptian friends before boarding my connecting flight to South Africa scheduled on the same day. I was granted an entry approval at the airport. Shortly thereafter, I was called back and asked to wait. Then, my passport and travel documents were taken by the police. I was informed afterwards that I will not be allowed into the country due to “top secret reasons.” 

To no avail, I repeatedly asked about what the “top secret reasons” were, and why I was not informed of their nature even though they concerned me. I was told that it was a matter of “national security and intelligence.” I was not given the information because the security officials at the airport told me “they could not provide me with the reasons as they themselves did not have access to it.” 

Upon the arrival of my Egyptian attorney, he insisted on finding out why I was considered a threat to the national security of Egypt, and how they could deny me entry after they had stamped my passport with approval. 

In response, we were told that “if I insisted on not leaving voluntarily, I would be forcibly deported to Bahrain.” To further intimidate me, I was also informed that the Bahraini government had issued an arrest warrant with my name. 

I am afraid that this incident is not an isolated occurrence, but one of many to date where Bahraini human rights defenders are routinely subjected by Egyptian security forces. 

In April 2012 I was stopped at Cairo’s airport by security officials who attempted to deny me entry into Egypt. I was ultimately allowed in after my lawyer and your wonderful countrymen-- Egyptian activists intervened. 

During my ordeal on this time, a police officer candidly admitted to me that I was eventually allowed in because according to him, there were protests going on in Egypt - which is not the case this time around. 

Earlier this year, my colleague and the actual president of the Bahrain Center of Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab was denied entry and returned to Bahrain by security officials at Cairo Airport. As you may know Mr. President, Mr. Rajab is currently imprisoned in Bahrain to punish him for his role as an outspoken human rights defender. 

In pre-revolution Egypt, authoritarian regimes like Bahrain found a diligent ally in Egyptian intelligence as they sought hinder the movement of human rights defenders. Such regimes, and others, eagerly outsourced their harassment to former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Back then, it was always a risk for Bahraini and Arab human rights activists to travel to Egypt because of the former regime’s commitment to fellow dictatorships. 

Not long ago Mr. President, you were personally on the receiving end of these arbitrary and unjust practices as a dissident. I respectfully ask you today sir as a fellow Arab: How can such blatant disregard for the law and basic human dignities continue under your watch? 

As the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, I write to inform you that I am gravely concerned, as a human rights defender, by the unjust and hostile treatment I was subjected to in Cairo’s airport. 


Maryam Abdelhadi Al-Khawaja

Acting President 

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

Monday, 27 August 2012

Pot promoter: Feds have me in their sights By Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel 4:07 a.m. EDT, August 27, 2012 From notorious smuggler to ex-con to author and lecturer, Robert Platshorn has assumed several personas over his 69 years.,0,4562387,full.story

By Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel

Pot promoter: Feds have me in their sights 

4:07 a.m. EDT, August 27, 2012

From notorious smuggler to ex-con to author and lecturer, Robert Platshorn has assumed several personas over his 69 years.

But now the West Palm Beach man's latest incarnation — pitchman for pot use by seniors — has drawn unwelcome attention from the government, which, he says, is singling him out because of his advocacy.

"They want to stop me from advocating and would like me to be poor and quiet," the parolee said. "They want to put the Tuna back in the can."

The U.S. Parole Commission has thrown the full weight of its power upon him, he says, demanding spot urine tests, making unannounced visits and restricting his travel — and source of income.

Federal officials are aware of Platshorn's complaints — they're defending against a lawsuit he filed — but decline to discuss specifics of the case.

Platshorn, a member of the Black Tuna pot smuggling operation in the 1970s, served 30 years in prison and was released on parole about three years ago. Since then he has become the Johnny Appleseed of medicinal marijuana for the silver-haired set. He has argued for the legalization of pot at community centers and synagogues, and via billboards and videos such as "Should Grandma Smoke Pot?"

He has written a book, "The Black Tuna Diaries," and travels the country on a "Silver Tour" to speak at pro-legalization rallies and legal conferences. Though on parole after his release, Platshorn was allowed to travel on book and lecture tours.

In May 2011, Platshorn received a message from the Parole Commission. "You are hereby discharged from mandatory parole," it stated. "By this action you are no longer under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Parole Commission. You are commended for having responded positively to supervision."

But Platshorn's unusual mission attracted national media attention, and he's been featured in the Wall Street JournalNew York Times and on CNN. Last spring, after Platshorn's parole officer died, a new one, Scott Kirsche, appeared at his door, cup in hand for a urine test.

"I read about your case, I know who you are and I know you've been smoking pot all along," Platshorn quoted Kirsche as saying.

Platshorn attributed the increased scrutiny to his growing notoriety. "There's definitely a correlation," he said. "I've got a national reputation."

Kirsche informed Platshorn that while he'd been told he was off parole, he still had eight years to serve of "special parole."

Parole officers showed up unannounced at his house. Recorded calls would give him an hour to appear at the local parole office for questioning. He was put on a demanding urinalysis schedule.

"For a month they made me come in every Friday and give them a drop," he said. "I'm getting ping-ponged. It's definitely vindictive."

Platshorn failed initial drug tests because he had been treating skin cancer lesions with cannabis oil legally purchased out of state as medicinal marijuana. He has since proven clean. "I've been very careful not to do anything wrong," he said.

In July, two days before he was to speak before the American Bar Association in Chicago, Kirsche called. "He said you are not permitted to travel to promote the legalization of marijuana without the express permission of the U.S. Parole Commission," Platshorn recalled.

"They know for certain it's my only income," he said of the speaking engagements. "I've missed five events now, each one means a couple of grand to me to supplement my $690 a month in Social Security."

Parole Commission spokeswoman Johanna Markind said she couldn't discuss Platshorn's case, but said that travel restrictions are standard conditions for parole. He should also have known of his special parole status, she said.

Karen Goldstein of West Park, director of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Platshorn is being targeted.

"They're uncomfortable with his activism, they're trying to silence him," she said. "It's like double secret probation, like in 'Animal House.' "

Platshorn sued the Parole Commission in federal court. His attorney, Norm Kent of Fort Lauderdale, said government lawyers admitted they mistakenly told Platshorn his parole was terminated.

Kent said by law Platshorn is still under the Parole Commission's control, but even so, he has a constitutional right to voice an opinion. "They are violating his fundamental First Amendment rights, even as a parolee," he said. "If there is anybody who ought to have a right to protest against unjust marijuana laws it ought to be somebody who's served 30 years in prison for them."

Pot advocates are rallying behind Platshorn. Last week about 100 supporters left phone messages for Parole Commissioner Isaac Fulwood pleading for his discharge from parole.

"He's bucking the system and they don't like it," said Kim Russell of Orlando, chairperson of People United forMedical Marijuana, who organized the phone-in. "It's just wasting taxpayers' dollars." or 954-356-4525







Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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