Saturday, September 08, 2012

Kabul Actresses Who Were Attacked Face Prison Time

Ahmad Masood/Reuters
As an actress, the following news cuts to the core. I know it's way past time to pull out of Afghanistan, especially in light of the massive increase in "green on blue" killings. That country is a lost cause.  I had hoped not, especially for the sake of the women, but things aren't going to change, and they continue to worsen.

Three Afghan TV actresses, two of them sisters, were attacked near Kabul. The two sisters, Tamana and Areza, survived. Benafsha was not so lucky. Apparently, people didn't like the "immodest" clothing they wore on the various TV programmes they performed on.

"I didn't see the TV programme, I just heard the local boys saying that one of them played a role with boys," said Yaqin Ali Khalili, owner of a shop that the women frequented. "The hatred of the people here is the reason she was killed, I am 100% sure," he added.
The girls lived in a conservative neighbourhood, and after taunts, threats and criticism they decided to move. As they approached a minivan that contained all of their belongings, they were attacked by 6 men. Benafsha died from her stab wounds, outside a mosque.

The attack, rather than being condemned by Kabul citizens simply encouraged people to level threats against other actresses.

One prominent young actress, Sahar Parniyan, received death threats and has gone into hiding. On the rare occasions she still ventures out she has to wear the burqas she used to despise. "The threats were in calls at midnight, or 2am when I was deep asleep, using very bad words and repeating 'you will be next for assassination'," Parniyan told the Guardian in an interview at a secret location. "I cannot continue my life as an actress in Afghanistan, although I love my job. The Taliban are against women, but so are other groups … Afghanistan is not made for women, whether actresses or not."

But the actual attack isn't even the worst of it. As is typical in a conservative Muslim society, female victims are victimized twice.  No sooner were the two sisters treated at a hospital, they were dragged to prison where they will undergo virginity tests, and possibly could be charged with prostitution or "collusion".

 "We have already sent them to the forensic office to do an examination, to make clear whether these girls are having illegal relations with anyone," said prosecutor Ghulam Dastegir Hedayat, responsible for western Kabul, where the killing took place.

No-one knew they were performers, not even their landlord, because Afghan society frowns upon female actors. They apparently claimed they did laundry so as not to cause problems for themselves. Islamic society also deems females without  male chaperones as questionable in character, which is why they were hauled off to jail. But the sad fact is that even if the sisters had wanted the protection of a male relative, they didn't have that option since they were orphans. The girl who was murdered happened to be divorced.

According to Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch:

"Women living in a house together without male relatives is very unusual and the police and neighbours all seem to imagine that in a situation like that they are running a brothel. We came across quite a few cases where behaviour that the police didn't approve of seems to have turned into a crime and a long prison sentence. And certainly any woman who is not under the control of or vouched for by a husband or male family member is deemed immoral."

So, Tamana and Areza could wind up spending years in jail for "moral crimes", while the men walk free.  But that's also typical. The authorities are, of course, trying to blame it on the girls because Muslim men are never guilty of anything.

While police and prosecutors claimed the women were not attacked for being actors, they suggested the assault was prompted by their work and living arrangements. "The result of our investigation is that she was not killed because they work in television, the six people who killed her were threatening the group one or two days before with the aim of getting them to agree to illegal relations," said Hedayat, the prosecutor.

One police officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, is convinced they were prostitutes because they were not educated, and believes that they were attacked because they probably refused to have sex with the men:

"To feed themselves they have to find money. Where do they get it from?" "This wasn't a people's attack on them, it was just something between some groups and the women … when there is a request to the females and they refuse, this kind of thing happens."

Really?  This just shows how supremely ignorant and chauvinistic Muslim males can be. First of all if they were prostitutes and in need of money, why would they refuse to have sex with a john? And the refusal of sex justifies physical violence and imprisonment of the victims? And lastly, whose fault is it that Afghan women are uneducated?

It's too bad that all the Muslim women in the West who enjoy hiding behind their burqas, hijabs and niqabs, and their uber conservative ways aren't forced to switch places with the women in countries like Afghanistan who yearn for freedom.

Afghanistan is a backward, God forsaken, blight on this earth. And that's never going to change.

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