The Whipping Girl: Examining the Video of the Flogging in Pakistan

The recent release of a video showing the flogging of a girl by the Taliban in Pakistan has created a stir across the web. Various articles have been published about it, both on mainstream news sites and blogs.  The reason for the whipping remains unclear: media outlets report intercourse before marriage, rejection of a marriage proposal, and going outside without a male escort as the possible reasons for the flogging. Whatever the Taliban’s reasoning for the flogging, the video itself presents a host of issues and concerns, not only for the government of Pakistan (which has to deal with the consequences of a recent deal with the Taliban in the Swat region) but for women in the region, especially in regard to how to organize grassroots movements.

The video itself was leaked to news outlets by women’s rights activist Samar Minallah. The obvious intent was to show women’s rights being violated by the Taliban and to possibly get the Pakistani government to rethink their recent agreement with the Taliban. However, I do wonder how effective this will be, especially for the women most affected by Taliban rule, the women in Swat region. The Taliban itself was not moved by the leak of video and defended the flogging saying that the only thing wrong was that the flogging was not done in private. This may put pressure on Pakistan’s government to rethink its agreement with the Taliban, but I still wonder how much leverage this video has. Surely, people in the government knew of the Taliban’s track record with women long before this video showed up on news channels and on the web. Women’s rights under the Taliban appeared not to be a pressing concern for Pakistan’s government then and I’m not sure it will become one now. Once this story is no longer a headline, will this incident simply become a minor embarrassment for Pakistan’s government? I hope that the leak of the video does effect change, but I also remain skeptical.

What was really disturbing about the video, even more than the flogging itself, was the spectator aspect of it. We see a group of men standing all around the woman, seemingly unaffected by her cries for mercy. They’re literally spectators to the whipping, making it seem like any other mundane public event instead of a violent beating. It shows how desensitized we have become to violence, especially violence against women. The flogging almost appears to be a form of entertainment for the spectators. The video was sent to many people, not just Samar Minallah. Did the recorder of the video shoot it to shame the Taliban or was the recorder sympathetic with the Taliban and hence saw nothing wrong with their actions? If the recorder was the former, then the motivation for recording the video seems to be obvious. However, if the recorder is the latter description, then why would he record the flogging? Was it part of the spectator aspect of witnessing the event?

We may never know. Still, the video makes us all spectators to this event and it allows people like me, who have never been in that region of the world, to become passive participants in the event. I know what took place in the video was horrid but at the same time, there is still the issue of how much I can relate to it. After watching the video, I could go back to my daily life, whether that meant cleaning the house or watching a movie. For a lot of people looking at the video on YouTube or on a site like The Guardian, I doubt the experience was very different from mine. They could watch in horror for the five minutes that the video takes place and they could form an even more horrible opinion of the Taliban, much like my mother did. But then what would come about after that?

This brings up the issue of what this video means, which relies a lot on who is watching the video. For women and human rights activists the world over and especially in Pakistan, this video is a brutal example and reminder of why they keep up the fight. For some people in Pakistan, this video is an embarrassment to their nation; to others, it is an example of how their country should be ruled. Most of all, it is an example of the personal pain that can be wrought on women under repressive rule.

But in all of the stories and talk about the video, there is little talk of the personal agony that was endured by the young woman in the video. Her pain and suffering is being used as rallying call for women’s rights, yet I doubt her permission was even sought for the release of the video. There is little known about her feelings and what this video means to her. That defines what this video means to me more than anything else. It is the public display of a violation of a woman who never asked to become the face of the brutality of the Taliban nor the face of how to “properly” execute a punishment under Shari’ah. It is the violation of her autonomy and dignity.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Great analysis. Can such footage be desensitising? During the recent Israeli attack on Gaza, there was a lot of footage being circulated showing dead Palestinians, especially children.

    Along with the viewpoint that repeating viewings mean such images lose their power to shock, I argued that such footage violates the dignity of those featured.

    People who wouldn’t circulate a photo of the half naked body of a living person, were quite happy passing round a photo of a similarly clad, dead person.

    It is for the woman in this video to decide if she wants the footage shown or not. Unless her permission is sought, then this footage could be just a big a violation as the flogging.

    For those who say, that this video must be shown to combat the problem, I would say this still does not override the woman’s right to dignity.

    In our media saturated age, do we need to see the graphic details of something to know that it is wrong?

    For example, in the past, when reporting on murders, reports would be rather circumspect, out of respect for the victim’s loved ones and also because such material would be deemed unsuitable for “family newspapers”. Now such cases, are usually reported with with very detailed accounts of what happen to the victim, especially if the victim is female.

    Here is a link (warning: it’s very, very graphic) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11623311/

    Reading that, one wonders, did we need to know all of that? Is not the fact of her murder horrific enough?

    I feel this is long enough, but I think we do need to question such things.

  • coolred38

    While I sympathize with this anonymous woman…at the same time I cant understand why THIS video in particular is demanding such attention and causing such outrage considering many of the actions taken against women there are so much worse then this beating…this is almost benign compared to some other videos I have seen and stories reported etc (not to lessen her pain and humiliation etc)…

    I also wonder about some of the people writing articles of outrage and stirring up the general public…they have plenty of outrage to thrust upon the reading public…but do they have solutions etc…not a one.

  • Pingback: The Whipping Girl « Raven’s Eye

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    “They could watch in horror for the five minutes that the video takes place and they could form an even more horrible opinion of the Taliban, much like my mother did. But then what would come about after that?”

    Um… you hold the perpetrators accountable?

    I don’t understand why you have a problem with circulation of this video without consent: the woman was totally anonymous. She was completely unrecognizable and covered. Maybe if she had her face showing or some mark or identity, then it would wrong to circulate. But the way the video is now, she is anonymous.

    Folks are saying the woman’s name is Chaand Bibi, but she is denying this ever happened (not surprisingly, for her own safety sake.)

    All this being said, I’m really suspicious as to why you have a problem with this video being shown to people, especially if it brings about greater accountability on behalf of the perpetrators. You seem to have a greater problem with the visibility and public aspect of the crime more than the crime itself, even though the woman is anonymous. Why?

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Rochelle: I can’t speak for Faith, but I think a reason that the video is problematic–even though she is “anonymous”–is that in shame-based collectivist cultures like those of the Middle East and South Asia, public whipping is intended to shame (and warn others against similar behavior). This woman might not know that she’s in a video, or maybe woman she will always know that it’s her in the video, maybe she’ll know that people all across the world, including perhaps people she knows, have seen her getting whipped. How would that make you feel? Not particularly cool, I assume.

    And, while the Taliban should be ashamed of their actions, they’re not.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    So you’re saying that we should assume this woman has a bigger problem with video shot of her, even while completely anonymous, than being flogged in front of her entire village in the first place?

    The fact is, somebody took a video of her with his cell phone, and it got leaked. Now if you use that video to hold the perpetrators accountable, as evidense in the trail or as a mobilizing force for human rights activists, than I’m fine with it.

    It doesn’t matter if the Taliban is ashamed. They broke the law, both domestic law as well as international human rights law, and this video proves it. Thus it shoud be used to hold them accountable. And if they don’t like video of their punishments being shown all over the world, it’s probably a sign that the punishment itself is unacceptable.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Nobody is defending the Taliban here. I agree that the men who did this should be held accountable for it.

    I’m saying that the video is may be doing her more damage than it is them. If she knows about the video, if she sees it, then she may have to relive the trauma of being whipped in public all over again and the shame associated with that. She has to live with that and experience that.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    I don’t buy that. If there’s video footage of a murder being committed, should we destroy the video because of the damage it does to the victim’s family by just knowing it exists? Should we not use it as evidence in court because to avoid the risk of the family seeing it?

    It may indeed be traumatic for the woman to know there is such a video. But I’m guessing it was more traumatic to be flogged. And we have to do a cost-benefit analysis here. The action taken to prevent further crimes against women that this video will incite provides a great benefit than the relatively low cost of the woman’s personal feelings about the video, especially because she was anonymous.

  • Krista

    First, quick question, Fatemeh, you said this post was written by Faith? It has your name at the top of it… Also, the end looks cut off, is there something missing?

    As for the discussion here, I also agree that we need to ask questions about the video being circulated… not in any way because we shouldn’t be talking about something atrocious as this happening, but because I do see it as a violation of this woman’s privacy and pain. Even if she can’t be identified, it’s something extremely painful (in every sense of the word) that has happened to her, and the fact that thousands (millions?) of people have now watched it seems hugely invasive to me. I know other people see that differently (I personally have very strict limits for which images I think it’s okay to show, so I often disagree with people on this one), but it’s something that makes me really uncomfortable.

    As Rochelle said, if the video can be made to hold the Taliban accountable, that’s great, and I hope that now that it’s out there, some good might come out of it. That said, I have to say I’m skeptical of whether that will actually happen… As was mentioned in the post, it’s easy for people to watch, get momentarily outraged, and then go back to what they were doing… which, to me, makes the fact of how invasive the video is all the more tragic. Rochelle, I hope you’re right that it can be used for something good (even though I still disagree with the way it has been so widely circulated), but I have my doubts. As Fatemeh said, “the video may be doing her more damage than it is them.”

    I definitely agree with Safiya that these videos and images can be desensitising, and like her, I also had a lot of problems with many of the images circulated during Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza. These were also circulated with the intention of holding the perpetrators accountable, and again, holding them to account is *not* something I disagree with, but I still found some of the photos really sensationalistic and invasive, and I really don’t think it was appropriate or respectful to show them.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Krista! Thank you! I’ll fix it immediately!

    @ Rochelle: We’re not talking about court evidence here. We’re talking about a video that is being circulated without the woman’s consent (or perhaps knowledge) that constructs her as a victim and does little else. So far, what actual good has come from the circulation of this? If this had actually made more of a difference by now, I might think differently.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    According to this news report (the authenticity of which I’m not sure is verifiable or not, I’m just putting it out there), Chand Bibi is claiming that she had never been flogged, is a “purdah-observing Pashtun girl,” and does not want to appear in court. If Chand Bibi is indeed the girl who was flogged, then it sounds like she’s not very down with the video.

  • Anon

    would you also be concerned if it was a man being flogged?

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Rochelle – There’s a big difference between evidence in court and all over You Tube.

    The article I linked to is a prime example of the importance of distinguishing between the two. Should the information mentioned be mentioned in court? Yes. Does it need to be outlined in all the newspapers? I think not and there is something deeply sinister about female suffering being offered up for public view.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    Or she’s not down with getting flogged and knows that if she appears in court or admits to the flogging she will get punished by the same people that did this to her.

    How does her not admitting to this surprise you in the least?

    check out: http://www.stop-stoning.org/node/590

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    Have you heard of the ‘name and shame’ strategy? That’s what this video is doing. It’s naming (by showing) the people responsible as well as serving as a tool to shame them. I’m sorry, but if the video never leaked we would have never been aware that this act occurred.

    Making human rights violations visible has its merits. People in Iran are video taping harsh arrests with their cell phones all the time and then offering it to the media because they know that the international community, as well ordinary folks, mobilize around things they can see and verify.

    If someone watches this out of entertainment value, than that’s fucked. But there’s a reason why video and photography are being utilized by women’s movements.

    And by the way, none of us know how this woman feels about the video, so let’s stop speculating. The fact that she is unrecognizable makes a huge difference in my opinion. Furthermore, her denying this ever happened is not surprising in the least — i would deny it too unless i was positive of my protection.

    And tons of good has come out of this: first, we KNOW about it. That in and of itself has value. The abuse of human rights was recognized in the public. Second, tons of human rights organization in Pakistan are mobilizing to help this woman and to pressure the Pakistani government.

    Finally, I am critical of the way video and photography is used when it comes to human rights abuses, and strongly agree with Susan Sontag’s analysis on the subject. But even she agreed that the Holocaust would probably have been forgotten if it weren’t for the photographs that came out of it.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Rochelle – This video is not court evidence. Also, as I’m sure you already know, evidence used in court is not usually circulated all over You Tube. So that comparison is not valid.

    Either you believe that a woman has bodily autonomy or you don’t. We do not have the right to do any kind of “cost benefit analysis” .

    There have been tons of these videos circulated to very little effect, because ultimately, the flogging is the culmination of wider societal and political problems, which are incredibly difficult to solve.

    If the women involved want these videos to be shown, then fine. But it’s their choice and we do not, I repeat, do not have the right to decide what is best for them.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    I wholeheartedly agree with what Safiya says. Also, “naming and shaming” is not working in this instance. The Taliban doesn’t give a damn, as I already stated.

  • INAL

    But the question remains- Why so much hatred towards women?

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    “There have been tons of these videos circulated to very little effect,”

    That’s simply not true. The video of du’a khalil aswad being stoned to death prompted mass mobilization of women’s and human rights campaigns around the world. She did not die in vein in that respect, and hundred marched against honor killing in Arbil as a reaction.

    Your argument just isn’t very clear: What about the visibility of this act bothers you? Yes, the fact that somebody took a video of her being tortured adds to her degradation. But you cannot deny that more action is being taken to bring these people to justice now that people have seen this video. Plus, like I said before, she is completely unidentifiable. Shame necessitates identification.

    Human rights are inalienable. It doesn’t matter if this woman wants action to be taken or not. She was tortured, and thus her floggers and witnesses committed a crime and should be brought to justice. It’s the same as if someone wrote a story about the case, only the video makes it 100% verifiable.

    I’m not trying to say ‘what’s best for her’, but this video was leaked. So what are we supposed to do about it? Ignore it completely? What good does that do? I 100% disagree that the leaking of this video ‘does more harm than good.’ Even if the Taliban doesn’t care, maybe the Government of Pakistan will be pressured by the international community to own up to their sovereignty and protect its female citizens.

    I just think it’s really odd that people have a bigger problem with the video than the action act of torture.

  • http://www.brokenmystic.wordpress.com brokenmystic

    I just want to say that I had a problem with this sentence in the post: “For some people in Pakistan, this video is an embarrassment to their nation.”

    Actually, for the MAJORITY of people in Pakistan, the video is an embarrassment to their country. They hate the Taliban as much as they hate the corrupt government. This is a very disheartening time for all Pakistanis and I think the majority opinion in Pakistan deserve more attention than just saying “some people in Pakistan” find the video embarrassing. Those “others” that want to rule the country in this way represent a very unpopular minority.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Rochelle: “I just think it’s really odd that people have a bigger problem with the video than the action act of torture.”

    What makes you think that? Why do you assume that we in any way condone or accept her horrific torture because we have looked critically at the video and its circulation?

  • stumblingmystic

    My two cents as a Pakistani: While you’re right that the video is being exploited by various groups to push their agenda (which is inevitable), it is important that Pakistani people see that making peace deals with the Taliban is about the most foolish choice they could make. This video is a symbol of what happens when you decide to hand over control to a bunch of unpredictable thugs who are committed to leading a premodern, superstitious and violent lifestyle. I have even seen some people romanticizing the Taliban, saying that at least they are bringing peace to the region or whatever. What a load of drivel. The Taliban and other internal terrorist groups are nothing but a source of shame for us Pakistanis and the vast majority of us, as brokenmystic said above, want nothing more than to see them arrested for being the criminals that they so clearly are.

    Perhaps the video itself should not have received such international coverage but the incident itself ought to be reported widely so that people know what the Taliban are capable of.

  • Cranberrie_21

    AoA all,

    As a girl living in Pakistan for the last 7 years, I’ve seen and heard a lot about how women are treated like cattle, and not just in the Taliban controlled areas.

    When the video first surfaced, I was of course appalled, and mortified, but NOT surprised. Why? Because the Taliban, as the so called perpetrators of Islam, and always been doing this. Since the dawn of their era they had taken out “their” Islam and their unfulfilled manly urges on women. What I was however surprised by, was the nation’s, the governments and the so-called useless women activist NGOs reaction. You see, the local women’s rights NGO’s are nothing but a bunch of fat high class ladies who sit in meetings in their classy mansions all day long, and sip chamomile tea in the comfort of their soft downy sofas. The government really does not care about women to begin with, as they consider the treatment meted out to women as one’s personal family issue rather than intervening to provide justice (an example would be how the Baluchistan parliament dealt with the case of the women being buried alive). As for the nation, well, sadly enough, almost 80% people support the taliban, addressing them as the TRUE Muslims out to do Jihad.

    So, what really surprised me was the nations reaction. Had they not already known that this would happen?? And that eventually, the disease of Talibanisation would slowly seep in to their own cities, and be more of a bane than a boon? And it has already started too! Right here in the city of Karachi there have been countless occurrences of strange men coming up to women and asking them to cover up themselves up if they “know whats better for them”. Read more about it here

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=169835

    As for the commentators concern about privacy and its violation for the woman, well, all I can say is that, if there was enough concern and respect for a woman to give her this punishment in private view, then the Taliban would not have been so “barbaric” to begin with. Also, unless this so called “breach of privacy” had not taken place, my lost nation would still be hosting “Jeay (Long live) Taliban!” banners through out the city.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Rochelle – What is with all the “we” business. What gives you the right to do a “cost benefit analysis” (a truly loathsome turn of phrase in this circumstance)?

    I’ll ask again, what gives you the right to decide if these videos should be leaked or not?

    Please stop using the murder/ court comparison, it is not valid as I’ve explained repeatedly.

    We are right to question whether the circulation of these images are exploitative.

    Marches and petitions will not solve these problems. As for shaming the government into action, the video was not taken in downtown Karachi, but in the North West Frontier Province, where the government no authority whatsoever. Like I said before, there are deeper political problems here. Gawping and hand wringing, however well intentioned will not help.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    Safiya:

    No where did I say I had to right to leak these videos. Of course I don’t have that right. I’m saying the video was already leaked, so now what? How should the video be used by the media/civil society/government/society?

    No where did I say you did not have the right to question whether this video is exploitative. I respect your opinion, and I agree with a lot of it.

    I’m not sure what ‘we’ you’re talking about, but if I did use it I mean those working for women’s rights in Muslim contexts, and/or those who are pro-woman and anti-racist.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Rochelle: You stated that, ““I just think it’s really odd that people have a bigger problem with the video than the action act of torture.” I can’t speak for the writer of the piece, but I take offense to that as the editor. It implies that we have little or no problem with the torture this woman underwent, which is not true: as a website that operates under Islamic feminism, our default position is in support of women and in condemnation of whatever may hurt women. What this woman went through is horrific and cruel.

    It’s flippant and offensive to assume that our larger problem is with the video–we are a media website. It’s our job to look at the media.

    Khalas!

  • Sobia

    Whoa Cranberrie_21!

    “As for the nation, well, sadly enough, almost 80% people support the taliban, addressing them as the TRUE Muslims out to do Jihad.”

    How do you know this? Can you please provide sources for this.

    In the last election, the vast majority of the people of the NWFP supported the secular political party, not the Islamic one. People in Punjab and Sindh mainly follow Sufism, which is almost the opposite of the Wahabbi ideology of the Taliban. Your numbers don’t make any sense so you need to back up that claim with evidence.

  • Sobia

    I agree. The majority of people in Pakistan would be horrified by this video.

  • Laila

    THIS IS A CASE ABOUT PRIVATE/ PUBLIC RIGHTS!

    Faith,

    The absent of approved consent by the victim is concerning, and nobody has the authority to consent for her. However this is an abuse in a public space which concerns everybody, which also has an impact on others. The fact that this has happened in public and some-how we are supposed to be silent about it, I just don’t understand. Should we also have asked for Rodney King’s consent on the video of the police brutality against him?

    The woman who was flogged is not the only victim in the video, the person who video taped this is also a part of it. The recorder was also violated, since he/she had to stand by and watch the beating, because it happened in a public space he/she is a part of the activity. (And I don’t know what the recorder or the woman feel about this video). But I do know that this abuse did NOT happen within the confines of some one’s home where a third person who is not a party of it recorded it, that would be violating a person private space. This happened in PUBLIC and the recorder is a participant in the activity, a part of public abuse, which is LEGAL in many countries. I don’t know if it’s legal in Pakistan.

    The recorder is experiencing the abuse of a human being (in a public space). I think, the recorder has a right to Capture that abuse they are a part of. You are watching it through their eyes.

    Faith, please understand this abuse involves more than one person. He/She is also recording the authorities and the actions of the authority. He/She was also monitoring the authorities those in positions of power. So do you ask the authorities for permission of releasing the tape? For example, if I was on a street and I witness the police abusing a women (which I have). I have the right to video tape it because I am a citizen participating in civil society.

    This is a case about private/public rights. Because other people’s public rights were also violated and abused. The woman was an unwilling subject to the flogging and the recorder may have been an unwilling subject of public abuse, and they have the right to show the world what happens in their public space.

    And usually when people record public abuse it comes with a sense of public responsibility because you have the right to show how authorities abuse power. For instance, people have recorded police intimidation of ‘others’ in an election.And No this is not a private moment, this a public event like an election, the flogging was a public event (The Taliban have in the past drawn cowards to witness such punishments).

  • Muffy

    I think Fatemeh makes a very good point when she says that public whipping is designed to shame women. By circulating the video, you may very well be spreading her “shame” around the world, even if that’s not your intention. The fact that this woman denies this happened to her seems to support the notion that she prefers privacy.

    Society makes some very strange (and rather arbitrary) distinctions between “private” and “public” tragedy. Here in the USA anyway, we don’t televise funeral ceremonies for soldiers out of respect for the privacy of the family. However, we have no problem showing videos of dying children on the news.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    Thank you for bringing up Rodney King, I was just going to mention that example.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    I also agree with everything else you said, Laila.

  • laila

    Faith, you mentioned something very powerful- the MALE domination of the public sphere. “We see a group of men standing all around the woman”. What do you think it means the lack of women, or the exclusion of women from participating in this activity? Men are administrating the punishment, men are watching and the woman is victim?

    Space is a way of entitling power and by removing women from public spaces creates male collective spaces that strengthen and support male supremacy and male power. Patriarchy and the subordination of women is enforced through their exclusions from public space. For example, in Iranian public space women are markers of their society, they are expected to reflect the Iranian Islamic ideology (NOT MEN but WOMAN). The same thing in Saudi Arabia with the religious police the Mutawa regulating their behavior in public. “In the process women are used as symbolic markers of cultural purity and national honour, so that policing women is seen as protecting the nation” (Sreberny-Mohammadi).As an Islamic Feminists I believe the constructions of the public sphere is a reflection of the power hierarchy, and in the case of the woman being flogged in public among men by men reinforces the ideology of male domination. The same thing in the U.S. where black people are excluded from many spaces, which is meant to privilege whites and secure white supremacy. i.e. ghettos, concentration and internment camps.

    The video is not only about the power relations between the sexes but also the power of the authorities over the citizens i.e flogging. Excluding women in the public sphere is excluding them in the relationship of power.

  • Faith

    Thank you for the comments! They have been very interesting to read.

    It will take a long time to address each comment but I do want to address some general points.

    1) I don’t condone what the Taliban did. I never said that I did. Nor am I concerned with the Taliban’s image. My concern about the video being broadcast had NOTHING to do with the Taliban.

    2) I still stand by my assertion that the video shouldn’t have been broadcast without the woman’s (whoever she is) consent. Besides violating her privacy and dignity even more than the flogging already did, there is the real issue of how this will affect her everyday life. Other commentators have already brought up the issue of shame. By having this video played over and over again, the woman in the video may honestly feel that she is being shamed over and over again. It’s a legitimate concern that I don’t think too many people are addressing.

    It’s not analogous to a video of a murder because the murder victim is already dead. Even if we use this analogy, I do not think a video of a murder should be broadcast all over TV either out of respect for the family.

    This video does not tell us anything new about the Taliban. The Taliban are bunch of a misogynistic thugs. Not exactly a newsflash. How will distributing this video change what we already know? If this video causes any kind of practical change (i.e. Pakistan government rethinking its agreement with the Taliban–which I don’t think will happen btw) I still will think this video was a violation of privacy.

    3) As for how people in Pakistan view the Taliban, I don’t have poll numbers but I would wager that there are some people in Pakistan who have no issue with the Taliban especially in certain parts of the country. Just recently, I read a story, albeit from IslamOnline, about two sisters in the Swat region who were happy that the Taliban were not in power because they were able to get their inheritance from their father’s estate whereas before under secular rule their case got held up with appeals and more appeals. I’m not saying the sisters are right or wrong or even that this anecdote represents a sizable number of Pakistanis. Just that not everyone is saying “Feck the Taliban!”

  • Sobia

    Some Pakistanis yes. Most no. From everything I’ve heard from family in Pakistan and from the media coverage from there, the majority of Pakistanis don’t like the Taliban – especially not women. Swat is not representative of Pakistan.

  • Sobia

    Oh…and not to imply that those in Swat like the Taliban. From what I understand most people in Swat are depressed that the Taliban have taken over. They are also not happy. The Taliban are not at all popular in Pakistan.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    @ Fatemeh:

    I’m sorry if my words insinuated that I thought you did not care about the flogging or condoned it; this was not my intention and I would not read your blog or comment on it if I didn’t KNOW that you all believe this is wrong and continue to fight for women’s human rights.

    That being said, I’m glad this video was taken and leaked, and I’m not apologizing for that. I’m not speaking on behalf of the woman in the video; only for myself. If this video was never leaked, the world would not have known about this incident. And for some reason I think that exposing human rights abuses is a positive thing in itself, even if no “solid action” is taken. And it’s not enough knowing that the Taliban flogs some women, sometimes. This is a specific case with a particular, individual human being and I think the fact that the world knows about it has intrinsic value. Because the video illuminates and communicates what happened, I am thankful for that, because I would rather live in a world in which I am aware that this occurred than to have it occur and me remain ignorant of it.

    It reminded me of the Abu Graib case. Do I think it was despicable, exploitative, and inhuman that the fuckheads took pictures of their torture for entertainment value? Yes. Am I glad they did? Yes. Because it exposed their atrocities to the world and prompted an investigation and punishment. And I’m hoping inshallah that this video will have the same effect. I pray for the safety of the woman involved and know that NOBODY, myself and yourself included, can speak for her. But this video was not speaking for her, it displayed to a broader audience what was public to begin with: a torture that everyone should know about.

  • Sahar

    Rochelle, clearly you’re not considering the political and cultural context.

  • Farah

    “And for some reason I think that exposing human rights abuses is a positive thing in itself, even if no “solid action” is taken. Because the video illuminates and communicates what happened, I am thankful for that, because I would rather live in a world in which I am aware that this occurred than to have it occur and me remain ignorant of it.”

    While the video adds to the existing evidence of oppression I’m not sure in this case that it was the best idea to release it. The point Faith makes about the girl involved and her reaction to knowing that the video has been publicised world-wide is an important one and one that should not be reduced to a cost benefit analysis – she’s a human being not a commodity.

    For me the important point is that the victim involved has no control over how the incident is being communicated to the wider world. Essentially she is a passive actor, subjected to the gaze of the world. Like you say yourself, the video is not speaking for her. Also, I’m not sure if the exposure of torture in Abu Ghraib is analogous; in that context no one knew what was going on and the photos that were released exposed for the first time the torture and the people involved. If you needed a video to tell you that the Taliban oppress women than you’re really in trouble.

    “If there’s video footage of a murder being committed, should we destroy the video because of the damage it does to the victim’s family by just knowing it exists? Should we not use it as evidence in court because to avoid the risk of the family seeing it?”
    Using a video of murder as evidence in court is different to publishing the same video on TV and on youtube.

  • Laila

    Faith you do raise a legitimate concern that we have bypassed. But Rochelle makes an interesting point!

    I understand the video does not tell us anything new, but media is a powerful tool. Do you think the videos of Egyptian women being sexually attack and posted on blogs were telling anything new? No they weren’t telling anything new about sexual assault but it set something off-you witnessed it, you knew and you couldn’t deny it afterward. Do think Abu Graib pictures were saying something we didn’t already know, it was proving it. When I witnessed the police officer abusing the woman, it was his word against mine, and they went with the officers words because of his position of power. (The same goes with Abu Graib, and sexual assualt in Egypt). (Now I know why they have cameras on police cars). Also because sometimes people don’t want to believe it unless they see it with their own eyes.

    It makes me wonder if the Egyptian women who’s sexual assaults were caught on video feel like their privacy was violated when it was aired to the world, or the Abu Graib victims. Do they live the shame over and over again? I think those videos and pictures have cause some* sort of change, some sort of awareness/proof. I do know that Rodney King’s abuse caught on tape had an IMPACT. Was it a positive impact or negative, I’m not sure. Regardless, I think you do raise a legitimate concern!

    But how else can we get empathy from the world if not through the media? What do we do to get it instead of going to the media ???????????

  • sabitha

    Just to add that ,a guy found with this girl was also flogged before her.They were found together,so charged with adultry.Popular media never tells the whole story.Anyway,this was difficult to watch.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines.]

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  • http://reginamullen.com R. Mullen

    There are at least two reasons for this video to be circulated that no one is talking about here.

    The first is disgusting. All I’ll say about it is that in the West, you only have to count the number of movies “we” watch every year in which a young girl is being horribly victimized for “entertainment value.” Enough of that.

    The second reason is closely aligned with the first and impacts all of us.

    By staying silent, there is complicity. But in publicizing the video, there is greater complicity because the existence of the model serves as a warning to women about what the world is willing to tolerate.

    Nothing has happened to the people who beat this child. Nothing will happen to the men in all corners of the world who feel entitled to do horrible things to women. This is the real tragedy,–that women see, by repeated example, that men think of them as disposable playthings. That there are no stop words, no penalties or repercussions.

    If you want men to stop victimizing women, stop raising them to feel that it is acceptable. And, boycott every movie you hear of that takes as its premise the victimization of women. We know that the brain creates pathways that are fairly short between horrible things and excitement. So stop exposing your brain to garbage. It’s bad for you. Yes, Hollywood is right: it’s about self-discipline. So, it’s up to you.

    I’ve absolutely no empathy left for Palin, but Letterman, for shame, because just like violent and virulent racists, by laughing about illegal acts with minors (the hypocrisy of the Palin family notwithstanding), you shift the default a little bit closer to OK.


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