Tuesday January 23, 2018
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Peshawar school attack ‘Martyrs’: Failures pawned for legitimacy


By Rajesh Ghosh

Last year, speaking at the sad occasion of the Peshawar attack Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, vowed justice for the Shaheeds (martyrs) of the attack. It was a dastardly act, no doubt, that compelled Pakistan to fight terrorism with renewed seriousness. But were the school-going victims martyrs?


Ordinarily, a martyr is one who chooses (in full consciousness) to sacrifice his or her life, fighting for a higher purpose. The children, who were remorselessly gunned down, were neither fighting for a higher purpose nor were they knowingly in the line of fire. Rather, the students were pursuing their duty of learning when they were struck. They were not in a battlefield for they were not supposed to be in one.

But for the victims to be labeled as martyrs purports to an acceptance by Pakistan that the entire country is a virtual battlefield. The government and the all-powerful military are incapable of providing security to its own citizens and, therefore, all must be prepared to fight the scourge of terrorism. Consequently, any life lost as a result of terrorism is not a failure of the government or the security forces but only a minor loss in a larger war.

The government has very skillfully changed the narrative of growing concerns, from national and international quarters, of its capability and willingness to fight terrorism to one where it portrays itself as being in the front line of an otherwise protracted battle. It is unwilling to acknowledge its own failures and erroneous policies of breeding and nurturing so-called ‘non-state actors’.

Following the attack, the government renewed its support for the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb, a military mission in the restive region of North Waziristan where the TTP has a stronghold. Immediate claims of success were made by the military, with the Peshawar attack still fresh in the minds of the people. The government and the military succeeded in creating a superficial sense of security in the minds of its people.

It was superficial because terrorism is deeply embedded in Pakistan and in many sections institutionalized. Generations of Pakistanis have been radicalized and the nature of extremism has only hardened over time. They cannot be expunged from society in a short period of time. Moreover, they should not only wage war against terrorists but also against terrorism.

For terrorism is an ideology borne out of the complex interplay of many facets, not the least of which is state patronage. Pakistan has for long followed a policy of breeding so-called good terrorists to use them against India and Afghanistan. This policy has had unintended consequences as, like Frankenstein’s monster, it has lost its effectiveness in control.

Therefore, the Peshawar attack was an unaccepted failure of a doomed military policy. Those, innocent children who lost their lives were not heroes but victims. They should not have had to lose their lives to acquire that honorific. They should have been alive and been heroes. (image courtesy: ibtimes, thedailystar.net)

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Threatened, Thrashed And Raped : Afghanistan’s Invisible Taliban Child Brides and Widows are Trapped in Sex Slavery

Child and forced marriage are outlawed but remain common in Afghanistan, particularly among poor families eager for dowries

Child and forced marriages are a common practice among the Islamist Taliban. VOA
  • Child and forced marriage remain a common practice in Afghanistan, particularly among poor families in lure of dowries.
  • Young child brides of Islamist Taliban are denied educated and are often treated as sex slaves
  • After the death of their militant husbands, Taliban widows are shunned by their family and society alike and remain beyond the reach of government aids

London, August 24, 2017: Fatima’s Taliban husband was so controlling that he refused to allow her to bathe and threatened to burn her face if she dared wear makeup, suspicious that his 12-year-old Afghan wife was trying to make herself attractive to other men.

He would not let her step outside their home in Afghanistan’s western Farah Province, even when she fell sick, and beat her for burning her hand baking bread, complaining that her mother had taught her nothing to justify the dowry he paid.

“My father sold me to a man at a time when I didn’t know anything about the responsibilities of marriage,” she told Reuters in a phone interview from the capital, Kabul, where she and her young daughter are hiding.

“He became my lawful husband and began to rape me and beat me every single day for not consenting [to sex],” said the 18-year-old, who would not give her full name.

Child and forced marriage are outlawed but remain common in Afghanistan, particularly among poor families eager for dowries.

Half of all girls are married by the age of 15.

ALSO READ: Ghana Chooses Girls Over Brides, Launches ‘End Child Marriage’ Campaign

Among the most invisible victims are the wives of Islamist Taliban hardliners who, when in power, barred women from education and most work and ordered them to wear burqas outside the home, before being overthrown in 2001 by U.S.-led forces.

“Being family members of the most dangerous and ruthless fighters who have plenty of enemies among the people makes it difficult for these women,” said Shukria Barakzai, a parliamentarian and women’s rights campaigner. “They are treated as sex slaves and left completely helpless.”

Taliban child brides
Taliban women are denied access to education or work and are ordered to wear burqas and stay inside houses. VOA

Agonized, emboldened

When their militant husbands die, life often gets worse for young Taliban brides. Their families are too scared to take them in, society treats them as pariahs, and they risk further violent abuse as unprotected single women.

About a year into their marriage, Fatima’s 25-year-old husband — she calls him a “veteran criminal” with stockpiles of ammunition in their home — blew up a police officer and was jailed for 18 years.

He was released in late 2016, after serving just four years — a common phenomenon in Afghanistan, where the Taliban often hold influence over the government.

But he never came home.

His brothers told Fatima they believed he had sacrificed himself in a suicide attack and become a martyr.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, estimates that several hundred women become Taliban widows each year.

“My brother-in-law was planning to force me to marry him and sell my four-year-old daughter to a Taliban commander,” she said, referring to the dowry that would be paid for her child.

“This evil plan agonized me and at the same time emboldened me to run away, regardless of the consequences.”

Under the pretext of attending a village wedding with her mother-in-law, Fatima ran away with her child.

Her father would not take her in, but her cousins helped her get to Kabul.

“Every one of my in-laws is a Taliban member and they vowed to slay my whole family to bring justice,” she said.

To the Taliban, justice means killing Fatima and her family for the shame she brought by running away from home.

Taliban widows and child brides
Tliban widows continue to remain outside the reach of government and rights groups to seek support. VOA

Jihadis in training

Zari, another Taliban widow, who was forcibly married at the age of 14, was not so lucky.

Three years after her husband died in a suicide attack, she remains trapped in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, tormented by his cousins who rape her repeatedly and are raising her sons, aged nine and 11, to become jihadis.

The men, who are members of the Taliban, come to the house where she lives with her elderly mother-in-law a couple of times a week to rape her, threatening to kill her if she tells anyone.

“I urge the government to rescue me and my sons as their future is in grave danger,” the 26-year-old, who declined to give her real name, said in a phone interview.

“They plan to send both of my sons to Pakistan to participate in jihad. … They take my elder son for religious indoctrination and training to become a militant like his father.”

Neither the government nor rights groups can access Taliban widows living with their in-laws in remote, rebel-controlled territory. Conflict makes it impossible for them to provide for themselves, forcing them to live with their in-laws.

Neither boy goes to school because Zari cannot afford books or uniforms with the money she earns weaving or from her cows.

“I want to escape with my sons, but my family is not ready to accept me and jeopardize themselves,” she said, adding that her family did not know they were marrying her into the Taliban.

ALSO READ: Taliban Terrorist Group behead 30-year-old Afghan Woman for Divorcing Husband and living with another Man

Afghanistan has about 5 million widows, said a spokeswoman for the women’s affairs ministry, Kobra Rezai. It can only afford to provide about 100,000 of them with about $100 a month in financial support and skills training, she said.

None are Taliban widows.

The government does not want to be seen to be supporting them, Rezai said, a position condemned by Barakzai, the parliamentarian.

“Circumstances push [Taliban widows] into a precarious position and compel them to continue their lives as sex slaves in the hands of Taliban,” she said. “Even their children have no way out of this vicious trap.” (VOA)