Afghan police learn how to fight domestic violence

By Golnar Motevalli
Thursday, April 8, 2010; 10:59 PM

KABUL (Reuters) - Even as a young police officer, Afghan police Captain Camelah Wali suffered regular beatings at the hands of her husband.

Now in her fifties, she sits on the front row of a brightly-lit classroom of about 35 Afghan policemen and 15 policewomen at Kabul's Police Academy, listening to how today's law in Afghanistan is meant to protect women from domestic abuse.

"(My husband) did not like my job. He would beat me often. The police never came to help me, but I didn't want to go to them for help either," Camelah said.

A report by the United Nations last year said violence against women in Afghanistan is deeply-rooted and widespread, compounded by the fact that the country has been at war for almost three decades and is also one of the poorest in the world.

"There's a lot of domestic violence in Afghanistan ... it's the responsibility of the police to help Afghan women and to defend their rights," Camelah said during recess.

In conservative Muslim Afghanistan, where women were excluded from public life under the Taliban and where forced marriage and honor killings are still common, the idea that it is wrong to beat a spouse is still anathema to some policemen.

"The police force has gone backwards," Camelah said, comparing it to the institution she first joined. "Male police don't know about violence and they themselves do it to women. It's a great struggle for all women."

Camelah's job came to a sudden halt for the six years when the Taliban were in power from 1996-2001. Her husband died more than 10 years ago, she says, leaving her with a badly bent little finger on her right hand, which he broke in a fight.

Afghanistan's police force is trying to expand rapidly to meet the demands of a worsening insurgency. It is under pressure to be in shape to take over security, as a mid-2011 deadline for U.S. forces to start withdrawing from the country approaches.

But the force is beset with problems and has been harshly criticized by Western officials for being poorly trained, illiterate, corrupt and failing to administer Afghan law, often instead getting wrapped up in local tribal politics, particularly in rural Afghanistan.


The trainees at the Police Academy, which include about 15 women, take part in role plays, are lectured about the law and practical ways of combating domestic violence in the field, and about the psychological impact of abuse.

Instructors say Afghan policemen in particular are often at the center of a cultural tug-of-war between their personal and religious beliefs and their duties as law enforcers.

Addressing the conflict between tribal codes and modern law is one of the biggest challenges facing the police and their ability to prosecute domestic violence.

"The culture they live in expects certain behaviors which may be different to what the law defines as acceptable behavior," said Anna Baldry, an Italian criminologist and psychologist who runs the domestic violence classes.

"When they ask me 'what should we do', (I say) of course you should comply to your beliefs but remember you wear a uniform, so you are not representative simply of society, you are a representative of the government and you are there to enforce the law," Baldry said.

Jamshid, who like many Afghans goes by just one name, is a 21-year-old cadet from Logar province.

"In Islam, if a girl is going to get married she has to be asked but in our society in areas they don't give her this right, which I don't agree with ... but it's personally difficult for me to tell a family to do this or that," Jamshid said.

"(This class) helps me. I'm from a place that is Pashtun and over there they don't really pay attention to the law. I'm from an educated, open-minded family and it still helps me. I want to help women in the right way."


Divorce deals a cruel blow to Pakistani women

Women have little say when the man wants out, yet little way to leave if he's abusive but wants to keep her in. Once divorced, they often lose custody of their children.

By Mark Magnier
March 23, 2010
Los  Angeles Times

Reporting from Karachi, Pakistan - Zahida Ilyas looks every inch the demure Muslim woman, dressed from head to toe in black, her face ringed by a head scarf, the epitome of outward modesty.

Then her eyes flash and her jaw hardens as she recounts how she was beaten dozens of times, saw her husband take away their five young daughters, divorce her without telling her and leave her with nothing, least of all her dignity and confidence.

"He could kill me and no one would care," Ilyas, 32, said. "The police, courts, they're all on the men's side. No one listens to us."

With divorce and domestic violence on the rise in Pakistan, all too often women are dealt a doubly bad hand, family experts say. Women have little say when the man wants out, yet little way to leave if he's abusive and wants to keep her put.

Although statistics are difficult to come by in Pakistan and are often unreliable, the Aurat Foundation, which tracks women's issues, found 608 police reports of domestic violence in 2009, compared with 281 in 2008. Experts say most cases go unreported. Violence in marriages may be as high as 90%, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says, with most women unaware they're being abused.

On paper, Pakistani family law is among the more progressive in the Islamic world, although there's still no statute on domestic violence. But corruption, weak implementation, patriarchal thinking and legal gaps often leave men holding all the cards.

"The major problem is a feudal mind-set," said Zia Awan, head of the Madadgar Helpline, which helps women in crisis. "Women are treated like chattel."

When Zahida Ilyas married her husband, Mohammad, a distant relative, in Lahore in 1999, she saw a bright future, she said, fingering a cardboard album with snapshots of their big day, her in pancake makeup, him wreathed in red flowers, cuddling on the wedding platform.

They hadn't spoken before the arranged marriage, and she blushed serving him tea, she recalled, dreaming of a loving household filled with happy children. "I had great hopes," she said.

They had three daughters in rapid succession. When Mohammad lost his sales job in 2004, his parents stepped in to support him, and he started spending more time with his folks.

He started beating her, she said, blaming her for not having a boy. Her mother-in-law also abused her, she said, at one point kicking her so hard she had a miscarriage.

In 2004, they had a boy, Saim. But things only got worse, probably because, she said, her husband now had an heir and didn't need her.

Shortly after their sixth child was born last summer, Mohammad moved out and went to live with his parents. In September, when she went to ask for rent money, she said, he emerged with a pair of scissors and slashed her wrist.

She started attending a teaching workshop. With no money for baby-sitters, she would leave their infant daughter with her in-laws. One day in October, she arrived at the house to find her husband, in-laws and five daughters gone, his parents' house shuttered. She still has her son, who was in a different school when her husband made his getaway, she said.

She was unable to pay her rent, and her landlord threw all her belongings into the street soon after. She managed to get the landlord to relent, but she continues to live hand to mouth. She sits in a two-room apartment, mattress upended, bed broken, clothes strewn on the floor. She can't afford cooking gas or food. "I've been turned into a beggar," she said.

She discovered several months later that her husband had filed for divorce in August without her knowledge, let alone uttering the word "talaq" to her and waiting out a reconciliation period, as required for Shiite Muslims to divorce.

She eventually learned where her husband was living and tried to see her daughters -- Thooba, 10, Fiza, 9, Maliha, 6, Maryam, 3, and Maira, 7 months -- but he beat her again, she said. She shows a hospital report that lists "multiple contusions on leg and shoulder."

Her son often asks where his sisters are. He doesn't want to go to school, fearful of being snatched, she said. Her husband's lawyer has told her that the family will get custody of the boy legally, she said.

Many of the details of Ilyas' story could not be verified, although family counselors said her account was not unusual. Pakistan ranked 124th out of the 155 nations in the 2009 U.N. Gender Development Index, a measure of women's position in their society.

Mohammad Ilyas, reached by telephone, said he was divorced under civil and Islamic law, with all procedures followed. He said his wife handed the daughters over to him a year ago, voluntarily. The girls opted to live with him and are happy, he said. The boy chose to stay with his mother.

"She threw knives at me, even a bottle, and tried to hit me," he said. "I never beat her, was only unemployed for a year and even then gave her $50 a month."

He said he is willing to discuss their financial differences, but he wants witnesses. "I don't trust her," he said. "She always lies."

Divorced women are such pariahs in society, Zahida Ilyas said, that she'd get back together if his mother would stop meddling and he'd get a job.

She knows the safe thing would be to take her son and go live with her parents in Lahore, but that would mean never seeing her daughters again, she said.

"I don't know what to do," she said. "Do I go light myself on fire? And if I did that, who would take care of my son?"

She's heard her husband has a new wife. Early this year, she got an anonymous call. "Don't try anything or we'll kill you and your son," the voice said.

"It makes me very scared," she said. "I pray to God for confidence."

Many of the acts she says her husband committed contravene laws, regulations or religious traditions in Pakistan, which has a reasonably good legal framework, experts said.

Fathers aren't allowed to take daughters from their mother before puberty or sons before age 7 unless their mother is a drug abuser or mentally incompetent. Women have certain protections under inheritance laws, and sexual harassment is illegal, including marital rape.

"The law is not half bad," said Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch. "How it plays out, however, is a different world altogether."

In reality, ignorance, economics, intimidation, manipulation and the old-boys club all work against women, as does the writing of the marriage contract, often done by the man's side. Women who discuss divorce before marriage, particularly in rural areas, are seen as jinxing the union.

Men also have significant leeway to influence local rulings, forge documents and intercept notices. "Men can get away with what they want," said Khawar Mumtaz, head of Shertaz, a charity group working to educate women on their rights.

Calls by women's groups and others to reform the system and strengthen enforcement tend to be batted down by religious conservatives. In response to calls for a domestic violence law, for instance, fundamentalists initially denied any problem existed and now argue that it doesn't address the problem of elderly male abuse and would only increase divorce.

"The religious community always resists reform," Mumtaz said. "From their perspective, a woman who gets more rights will become wayward, whatever that means."


US Muslim TV boss 'beheaded wife'


The founder of a US Muslim TV network has been charged over the beheading of his wife, media reports say.


BBC News

February 17, 2009


Muzzammil Hassan, 44, is accused of second degree murder of Aasiya Hassan, whose body was found last week at the TV station in New York state.


Both Mr Hassan and his wife worked at Bridges TV, a station aimed at countering stereotypes of Muslims.


Authorities said Mrs Hassan, 37, had recently filed for divorce. The couple had two children, aged four and six.


Bridges TV, a satellite-distributed news and opinion channel, was founded by Mr Hassan in 2004 and was based in a suburb in Buffalo, in upstate New York.


Mrs Hassan had filed for divorce after enduring previous incidents of domestic violence, her lawyer told the Buffalo News.


In a statement on its website, Bridges TV said it was "deeply shocked and saddened by the murder of Aasiya (Zubair) Hassan and subsequent arrest of Muzzammil Hassan".


A family court hearing was due to address the future of the couple's two children.


Their grandparents have travelled from Texas and Pakistan to attend the hearing, John Tregilio, a lawyer for the children, told the Buffalo News.


Mr Hassan also has two other children, aged 17 and 18, from a previous marriage, according to reports.


Muslim men 'think they have God-given right to beat wives', claims female Muslim medic

Domestic violence is more common in Muslim households because men think they have a "God-given right" to beat up their wives, according to a leading female Muslim medic.

By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent

07 Nov 2008

Fatima Husain, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, has told how she sees Muslim women coming for treatment with strangle marks around their necks and bruises on their pregnant bumps.

She also claimed that problems develop because many followers of Islam are fearful of discussing sex, contraception and infertility.

Dr Husain, who works at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals in Berkshire, told the Muslim News that many women ask to be referred to her specialist clinics because she is a hijab-wearing Muslim, allowing her to discover the true scale of domestic violence in her religious community.

She said: "I've seen injuries on some of my patients that I wouldn't dream would happen to pregnant women.

"I've seen strangle marks, finger marks on their necks and bruises on their pregnant abdomens.

"Domestic violence is supposedly equally divided amongst the various groups but I get the impression it is more common in Muslims.

"Some Muslim men think they have a God-given right to be physically violent to their spouses. I see the result of all this when they are admitted as my patients."

Dr Husain went on: "I feel that it is important to talk about issues that are often avoided, especially by Muslims. These often cover areas to do with advanced fertility treatments, contraception issues and psychosexual problems.

"Unfortunately, many misconceptions have developed as a result of a lack of accurate medical information as well as the religious perspective."

The mother-of-two grew up in Brighton before studying at King's College London, and her career took off when she got a job at the IVF clinic at Guy's Hospital.

She said that she is finally starting to see an increase in the number of Muslim couples seeking fertility treatment, despite the stigma it has had among the devout, and added: "I always say a small prayer before I carry out the treatment."



I Married a Muslim: Katrina's Incredible Story

By Julie Blim and Scott Ross
The 700 Club – Scott Ross sat down with Katrina, author of Married to Muhammed, to learn more about her 14-year marriage to a Muslim, her brave escape, and her new life today.

KATRINA: My weekly allowance was $1,200.

SCOTT ROSS: To do what with? What did you buy?

KATRINA: Anything I wanted.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): That was just her spending money. Katrina’s new husband also showered her with fabulous gifts.

KATRINA: Nine-carat tennis bracelets, limousine trips, a trip around the world, build any home I wanted. I had seven homes at one point in my life.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Katrina had it all, but at what price?

KATRINA: Probably I got a good beating once a year. I was five months pregnant with our son, and he kicked me in the stomach because he stayed out late one night–overnight–and I questioned him for it.

SCOTT ROSS: He beat you?

KATRINA: Yes, it was my fault that I made him beat me because I shouldn’t have asked him.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): It all started out right. She had a good upbringing and became a Christian in her teens. Later she found success in modeling and acting. Then one night at a club, Katrina met the man of her dreams.

What is it that you found attractive about him?

KATRINA: Everything. He was suave. He said all the right things. He took me on the dance floor and literally swept me off my feet. He brought me drinks and roses.

SCOTT ROSS: He romanced you.

KATRINA: Romancing, yes, absolutely.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): An important detail in this story: the man was also a Muslim.

At any time during your dating process did the spiritual roots of your life–i.e. Jesus Christ–come into the equation anywhere?

KATRINA: Absolutely, but he kept telling me it was the same God, just a different language, that Allah was the same God as the God I served. I was in love with the guy. I say that love is not blind, it’s deaf and dumb also.

SCOTT ROSS: You got married?

KATRINA: Yes, in a mosque.

SCOTT ROSS: Did your family attend?

KATRINA: No, I didn’t tell my family. He’d say, 'Are you an adult or a child? Are you going to do what your Mom says the rest of your life, or are you going to go with the man of dreams?'

I thought the Middle East was somewhere in the middle of the country. I thought that Muslims were Ali Baba and the 40 thieves and the magic carpet ride. I was clueless!

The whole wedding was done in Arabic.

SCOTT ROSS: So you didn’t understand what you were doing?

KATRINA: I didn’t understand anything. It was intriguing, the mystique of the whole thing.

SCOTT ROSS: Anything there give you pause? Anything that you committed to?

KATRINA: When I came out of the wedding ceremony, I saw that not only had my name been changed, but my religion had been changed also. I’d become a Muslim.

SCOTT ROSS: And you came out with what name?


SCOTT ROSS: If you drop the plumb line of just one word, one name, Jesus Christ, drop that into the middle of this belief system, where were you compromising yourself?

KATRINA: I had compromised the deity of Jesus Christ.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): It didn’t take long for Katrina to realize this was not what she bargained for. Her husband, Mohammed, strictly held to Muslim customs and demanded her obedience.

If you didn’t?

KATRINA: I’d be beaten.

SCOTT ROSS: Physically?


SCOTT ROSS: Physically beaten by your husband?


SCOTT ROSS: And you sat still for that?

KATRINA: I was so entrapped. We had lots of money, but I had nowhere to go. I had nothing in my name. I had lost all my friends. I had parted with my family. I had lost my identity. I was living in my own country, but I was a foreigner in my own home.

SCOTT ROSS: Did you consider leaving the marriage?

KATRINA: Yes, three times I tried to leave.

SCOTT ROSS: Why did you come back?

KATRINA: Because he would come back and say, 'I’ll never do it again. I’m going to change. You can go here. You can do that.'

SCOTT ROSS: So you were bought and paid for, basically. So materialism is allowed within the Islamic beliefs?

KATRINA: Oh, yeah, that’s how they keep their women.

SCOTT ROSS: What about children? How many children?

KATRINA: We had four.

SCOTT ROSS: Four by Mohammed?


SCOTT ROSS: Again, Katrina, where did your former Christian beliefs play here? Were your children all informed of your beliefs?

KATRINA: No. The lifestyle kept you so busy with children. We had 20 furniture stores. We were traveling. We prayed five times a day. It’s such a busy religion. It keeps you from thinking. It is not a thinking religion.

SCOTT ROSS: What does this do to your psyche, to your spirit, to your whole way of life living with a man this violent who could kill you and your children?

KATRINA: I was so bound by fear. Islam: that’s how they hold their victims–by control, fear, and manipulation.

SCOTT ROSS: Katrina, a lot of people–Islamic men and women are watching this now–would certainly disagree with that. The President of the United States, George W. Bush has said Islam is a peaceful religion. He said it. You are telling me otherwise. You are saying it is not. Is this a certain segment of Islamic people? You’re saying that across the board this is a belief system, a religion that uses fear and intimidation as part and parcel, if you will, of their doctrine?

KATRINA: Yes. In Sura 47:4…

SCOTT ROSS: What is this?

KATRINA: It's the Koran. It says that when you see an unbeliever, smite at their neck until you make a great slaughter of them. Now what does that tell you? It says, to take not Jews and Christians as your friend. Kill the infidel.

SCOTT ROSS: Why is anyone buying into this?

KATRINA: Why did I buy into it?

SCOTT ROSS: Deception.

KATRINA: What does the Bible say? In the last days, even the elect, if it were possible, will be deceived.

SCOTT ROSS: Katrina’s mother and friends had been fervently praying for her for a decade. One day she felt compelled to sneak and read the Bible.

KATRINA: The lights went on and the veil was taken off. I realized I had been deceived by fine-sounding arguments, and I had denied Christ. I started crying.

Katrina liberated

SCOTT ROSS: Now it was time to tell Mohammed. He actually let her go to church for a while, but when she said she wanted to leave their religion…

KATRINA: That’s when he got violent. When I came home that night, he gave me two weeks to come back to Islam. I said, 'Mohammed, I am ready to die for Christ.'

SCOTT ROSS: Forsaking houses, land, father, and mother?

KATRINA: We did. We lived in shelters back and forth for over a year.

SCOTT ROSS: You had to leave the house?


SCOTT ROSS: Were you literally running for your life?


SCOTT ROSS: Did he threaten to kill you?

KATRINA: Yes, many times.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): After 14 years of heartache, Katrina now actively warns other women to avoid the same pain.

KATRINA: He told me point blank that if we can’t take this country by force, we’ll take our time and take it through marriage. Islam doesn’t want the U.S., or even Israel. They want the world.

SCOTT ROSS: What do you tell women who are considering converting to marry a man who is a Muslim?

KATRINA: Don’t do it. There’s no evangelistic dating. You’re not going get him saved, I’m telling you. God doesn’t put unequally yoked people together. If you think this is the man for you, he doesn’t even know love, because Jesus is love.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Her praying mother agrees.

KATRINA'S MOTHER: I’d say you’re about to get into the most awful mess you ever got into in your life. Your heart will break. Don’t. Please don’t!

SCOTT ROSS: You finally divorced Mohammed.

KATRINA: He divorced me.

SCOTT ROSS: He divorced you on the grounds that you had converted?


SCOTT ROSS: Do you have any communication with him at all?

KATRINA: Every week.

SCOTT ROSS: You do talk to him?

KATRINA: Our children still go in and out of his home here in the U.S.

SCOTT ROSS: And you have remarried?


SCOTT ROSS: And this man is a Christian?

KATRINA: Yes, a born-again believer who loves the Lord Jesus!

SCOTT ROSS: How should the everyday person who loves Jesus respond to a Muslim who feels just as strongly about his system as we do about Christ?

KATRINA: We try to soft-sell the gospel. What they respect out of me is a boldness to say to them, 'You’re missing it. Let me show you a Jesus you’ve never seen before. Let me show you who Jesus really is.'



Bethlehem's star-crossed lovers

Christian girl runs off with young Muslim -- Vatican, U.S., Palestinian president intervene after street violence erupts
- Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
Sunday, May 15, 2005

Bethlehem -- A love feud straight out of "Romeo and Juliet" has erupted in the West Bank over the clandestine romance of a 16-year-old Christian schoolgirl and a wealthy Muslim eight years her senior.

As with the Capulets and Montagues, there was fighting in the streets and intervention by both church and state. But unlike Shakespeare's tale of star- crossed lovers, this modern-day version ended Saturday with thwarted marriage plans and an apology.

Adriana Sabat, an 11th-grader at St. Joseph's School in Bethlehem, disappeared from her home on May 6, two days after her family learned she had a secret sweetheart, 24-year-old Fadi Omar, and warned her to stop seeing him.

The incident -- the second elopement in less than a week involving an underage Christian girl and an older Muslim man -- brought to the surface simmering tensions between Muslim Palestinians and the dwindling Christian community in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Under Palestinian law, buttressed by strong social customs in this still- traditional society, girls under 18 cannot marry without their parents' formal consent. Young women rarely leave home without a chaperone, and Western-style boyfriend-girlfriend relationships are virtually unknown.

When Adriana's father attempted to bring her home from her hiding place in a village near Hebron early the next morning, he was rebuffed by armed men threatening to kill him. Violent demonstrations erupted in Bethlehem as young Christians vandalized homes and businesses owned by the Omar family. At least 15 Christians were injured when Palestinian police opened fire on the crowd. Two of them were hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and Christians complained that the police used undue force.

After two days of frantic searching and diplomatic negotiations involving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican and the U.S. State Department, a convoy of armored vehicles from the U.S. consul-general and the Catholic Patriarchate in Jerusalem swept into Hebron on May 7, picked up the girl and put her and her mother on a plane to the United States.

They are now staying with relatives in Michigan while Adriana's father, Bassem Sabat, a 43-year-old history teacher and tour guide, tries to piece his family back together and avoid more bloodshed.

In Bethlehem, the local governor has deployed armed police to protect Omar's home, and a gas station and two furniture stores owned by his family that were firebombed during two days of riots last weekend.

The governor ordered Omar to apologize to the Sabat family. For their part, Adriana's parents demanded that the young man be prosecuted for abducting their daughter and sought a guarantee that she will be protected from further advances if she returns to the West Bank.

At a sulha (reconciliation) ceremony held on Saturday, the Sabat family reportedly demanded the huge sum of 150,000 Jordanian dinars -- more than $200,000 -- and a public apology. This compares with the usual payment in the case of a killing of less than 50,000 dinars. The sulha was held in private, but Palestinian officials said the Sabats were persuaded to drop their monetary demand and accept the Omar family's apology.

Fadi Omar and his relatives refused to comment on the affair.

"I don't want to inflame intercommunity feeling, but someone has to tell the truth," Bassem Sabat told The Chronicle last week, in his first interview since the elopement rocked the city. "These Muslim men are preying on Christian girls because they are forbidden from going anywhere near Muslim girls. If this had been the other way round -- a Christian man running off with a Muslim teenager -- both of them would be dead within hours, and the man's family would have to leave the country."

Sabat was not exaggerating the passions such relationships set off. A few days earlier, an east Jerusalem man strangled two of his sisters in an "honor killing" -- a traditional Muslim punishment for girls whose morals appear to have been compromised. And on May 2, a Christian father in Ramallah killed his 22-year-old daughter after she told him she wanted to marry a Muslim man, triggering demonstrations by both Christian and Muslim women in that city.

Zahira Kamal, the Palestinian minister for women's affairs, has called for a new law allowing women over 18 to marry without the consent of their parents. She has also demanded increased sentences for men found guilty of killing female relatives. Under present law, Palestinian men convicted of "honor killings" serve only six months in prison.

In Bethlehem, tensions have been rising since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 brought an influx of Muslims into the mostly Christian city and its adjoining middle-class towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. Christians accuse Muslims of taking over land and jobs and forcing them out of political power. Earlier this month, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both militant Muslim groups, won municipal elections over the secular Fatah party for the first time in Bethlehem's history.

Fadi Omar, son of a wealthy local businessman, was known around town for his lavish lifestyle and his sports car. He apparently spotted Adriana as she was coming home from school one day and obtained her cell phone number. A telephone romance blossomed.

On May 4, Bassem Sabat was summoned to the office of a local Palestinian security chief, where he found Fadi's older brother, Rami.

"He told me his brother loved my daughter and he was going to marry her," said Bassem. "He said she phones him every day. He said, 'Why not accept the love story and let them get married, across the different traditions?' "

But Sabat refused to bless the union.

"There are few enough Christians left in Bethlehem as it is," he said. "If she were older, it would be a different story. But she is still a young girl, and I cannot believe she understands the implications of the cultural tensions that she is stepping into."

Sabat said he reacted like any father concerned for the welfare of his teenage daughter.

"We took away her cell phone and grounded her," he said. "We sent her to stay with her grandmother, who lives in an apartment upstairs from ours, to protect her from outside influences. But last Friday morning (May 6), she told her grandmother she was going downstairs to collect some clothes, left the apartment and never came back."

The next time Sabat saw his daughter was more than 24 hours later. He said she was in a "safe house" in the village of Shayoukh near Hebron and was covered from head to toe in traditional Muslim garb.

"She told me she had come there of her own free will and that she wished to marry this young man, but the law is very clear that she cannot do so without the consent of her parents," said Sabat.

Because Adriana, who was born in Louisiana, has U.S. citizenship, her parents asked the Roman Catholic patriarch in Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, to contact U.S. authorities. Sabbah contacted the Vatican, which alerted the U.S. State Department and the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, officials at Sabbah's patriarchate told The Chronicle. Meanwhile, the Bethlehem governor contacted Abbas, the Palestinian president, who ordered Adriana to be returned to her family. She was driven from the safe house to the office of the governor of Hebron, where the diplomatic caravan picked her up and took her to the airport.

Within hours, U.S. and Vatican diplomats were on their way to Hebron to pick up the girl and put her on a midnight flight to stay with relatives in Michigan. The caravan stopped en route at the patriarch's Jerusalem headquarters to receive tickets from the U.S. consul-general.

Christian community leaders at the Al-Amal Catholic Social Club in Bethlehem last week, before Saturday's sulha, expressed their fury at the incident and the refusal of the local Palestinian police to arrest the young man.

"I am not in charge anymore," said Bassem Sabat. "The young men of our community do not want to see their Christian sisters with Muslim men. We are paying the price for this man's actions while he walks free. My family has been split up and my daughter's honor has been compromised. I don't want anyone to be hurt or killed, but I do want to see this man prosecuted. He should pay a price for what he did."


Vigil aimed at Islamic residents rescheduled


By Lisa Fernandez

Mercury News

November 28, 2006

A vigil in Fremont originally planned for tonight, which seeks to break through the stigma and secrecy many in the Islamic culture experience about family problems and mental illness, has been rescheduled to Dec. 7 to accommodate a larger audience, organizers said.

Muslim-oriented domestic violence prevention agencies will host the vigil Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Millennium Room at Fremont's Family Resource Center, 39155 Liberty St.

The event is in memory of Zarghona Rahim, 46, who died of a gunshot wound to her head last Tuesday. She and her husband, Wazir Rahim, 62, had been fighting in their kitchen, police said, when he allegedly shot her and began chasing his 82-year-old mother-in-law with a baseball bat. The mother-in-law ran to a neighbor's house and called her grandsons, who arrived and allegedly beat their father nearly to death before police responded to the scene.

On Monday, police said Wazir Rahim, who was arrested on suspicion of homicide, remained in critical condition on a ventilator at Eden Medical Center in Hayward.

The vigil will be co-hosted by Safety Education Mutual Awareness and Hope, and Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments, both in Fremont. The other co-sponsors are the Afghan Coalition in Fremont and Narika, a Berkeley-based domestic violence group that serves South Asians. Also, leaders from the North American Islamic Shelter for the Abused, a South Bay-based domestic violence family support organization, asks anyone in need of support to call their hotline at (888) ASK-NISA.

In addition, SEMAH co-founder Reshma Yunus will hold what could become an ongoing dialogue series -- to which Muslim men are particularly invited -- Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Afghan Coalition, 39155 Liberty St., Suite D-400, in Fremont. Farid Younos and Khalid Siddiqi, two well-known Muslim community activists and specialists in family counseling, are scheduled to speak.


How my eyes were opened to the barbarity of Islam

s it racist to condemn fanaticism?
Phyllis Chesler
March 07, 2007

Once I was held captive in Kabul. I was the bride of a charming, seductive and Westernised Afghan Muslim whom I met at an American college. The purdah I experienced was relatively posh but the sequestered all-female life was not my cup of chai — nor was the male hostility to veiled, partly veiled and unveiled women in public.

When we landed in Kabul, an airport official smoothly confiscated my US passport. “Don’t worry, it’s just a formality,” my husband assured me. I never saw that passport again. I later learnt that this was routinely done to foreign wives — perhaps to make it impossible for them to leave. Overnight, my husband became a stranger. The man with whom I had discussed Camus, Dostoevsky, Tennessee Williams and the Italian cinema became a stranger. He treated me the same way his father and elder brother treated their wives: distantly, with a hint of disdain and embarrassment.

In our two years together, my future husband had never once mentioned that his father had three wives and 21 children. Nor did he tell me that I would be expected to live as if I had been reared as an Afghan woman. I was supposed to lead a largely indoor life among women, to go out only with a male escort and to spend my days waiting for my husband to return or visiting female relatives, or having new (and very fashionable) clothes made.

In America, my husband was proud that I was a natural-born rebel and free thinker. In Afghanistan, my criticism of the treatment of women and of the poor rendered him suspect, vulnerable. He mocked my horrified reactions. But I knew what my eyes and ears told me. I saw how poor women in chadaris were forced to sit at the back of the bus and had to keep yielding their place on line in the bazaar to any man.

I saw how polygamous, arranged marriages and child brides led to chronic female suffering and to rivalry between co-wives and half-brothers; how the subordination and sequestration of women led to a profound estrangement between the sexes — one that led to wife-beating, marital rape and to a rampant but hotly denied male “prison”-like homosexuality and pederasty; how frustrated, neglected and uneducated women tormented their daughter-in-laws and female servants; how women were not allowed to pray in mosques or visit male doctors (their husbands described the symptoms in their absence).

Individual Afghans were enchantingly courteous — but the Afghanistan I knew was a bastion of illiteracy, poverty, treachery and preventable diseases. It was also a police state, a feudal monarchy and a theocracy, rank with fear and paranoia. Afghanistan had never been colonised. My relatives said: “Not even the British could occupy us.” Thus I was forced to conclude that Afghan barbarism was of their own making and could not be attributed to Western imperialism.

Long before the rise of the Taleban, I learnt not to romanticise Third World countries or to confuse their hideous tyrants with liberators. I also learnt that sexual and religious apartheid in Muslim countries is indigenous and not the result of Western crimes — and that such “colourful tribal customs” are absolutely, not relatively, evil. Long before al-Qaeda beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and Nicholas Berg in Iraq, I understood that it was dangerous for a Westerner, especially a woman, to live in a Muslim country. In retrospect, I believe my so-called Western feminism was forged in that most beautiful and treacherous of Eastern countries.

Nevertheless, Western intellectual-ideologues, including feminists, have demonised me as a reactionary and racist “Islamophobe” for arguing that Islam, not Israel, is the largest practitioner of both sexual and religious apartheid in the world and that if Westerners do not stand up to this apartheid, morally, economically and militarily, we will not only have the blood of innocents on our hands; we will also be overrun by Sharia in the West. I have been heckled, menaced, never-invited, or disinvited for such heretical ideas — and for denouncing the epidemic of Muslim-on-Muslim violence for which tiny Israel is routinely, unbelievably scapegoated.

However, my views have found favour with the bravest and most enlightened people alive. Leading secular Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents — from Egypt, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and exiles from Europe and North America — assembled for the landmark Islamic Summit Conference in Florida and invited me to chair the opening panel on Monday.

According to the chair of the meeting, Ibn Warraq: “What we need now is an age of enlightenment in the Islamic world. Without critical examination of Islam, it will remain dogmatic, fanatical and intolerant and will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality and truth.” The conference issued a declaration calling for such a new “Enlightenment”. The declaration views “Islamophobia” as a false allegation, sees a “noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine” and “demands the release of Islam from its captivity to the ambitions of power-hungry men”.

Now is the time for Western intellectuals who claim to be antiracists and committed to human rights to stand with these dissidents. To do so requires that we adopt a universal standard of human rights and abandon our loyalty to multicultural relativism, which justifies, even romanticises, indigenous Islamist barbarism, totalitarian terrorism and the persecution of women, religious minorities, homosexuals and intellectuals. Our abject refusal to judge between civilisation and barbarism, and between enlightened rationalism and theocratic fundamentalism, endangers and condemns the victims of Islamic tyranny.

Ibn Warraq has written a devastating work that will be out by the summer. It is entitled Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Will Western intellectuals also dare to defend the West?

Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York