The Swat flogging video —Samar Minallah
April 4, 2010
A year has passed since we heard the screams of a girl from Swat and saw how she was flogged by the Taliban in open view of the public. The Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, admitted in clear terms that the Taliban had carried out this act. Not only did he say on international electronic media that the Taliban flogged the girl in public, he also admitted that the case had not been investigated properly before the girl was punished. In addition, he has said it on record that the punishment was not carried out in the manner prescribed by Islam, where a child is supposed to administer the lashes to women. And he said that the girl should not have been flogged in the open, in the clear view of the public. Having heard all that loud and clear on TV, are we still disputing the fact whether the incident took place or not? If an Islamabad-based NGO allegedly paid money to filmmakers and actors in Swat to make a ‘fake’ video, then did the Taliban spokesman also take money to say that the Taliban indeed carried out the flogging? For those who still think the entire country suffers from memory loss, please have a look at the video at this web address, in order to refresh your memory and help you decide sensibly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKrfwXD6A34&feature=related.
Much to the disappointment of our ‘conspiracy theorists’, the entire country condemned the incident. People came out on the streets and the Taliban and their supporters conveniently termed it as a western conspiracy and a video produced at the behest of “anti-Islam forces”. The same Taliban apologists are again attempting to engage the people in this nonsensical argument. They ignore how the Taliban used violence against women and men, cutting throats, hanging body-parts in public places and executing people without any judicial process. They seem to have conveniently forgotten all those gruesome beheading videos in CDs that were sold openly as ‘Swat-1’ and ‘Swat-2’. All this was not only filmed by the militants but also proudly owned and disseminated by them. None were ‘fake’, none were funded by any anonymous NGO based in Islamabad. The entire world knew about them. Alas, short is the memory of our many so-called armchair analysts! “Always tell the truth. That way, you don’t have to remember what you said” — Mark Twain.
An article recently published in a local English daily alleging that the video was fake, does not bear the name of a journalist. It does not specify the name or identity of the ‘Swati man’ who claims to have made the video. It does not give the name of the NGO that supposedly paid the ‘local actors’ for acting in the ‘fake’ video. If all these were paid actors, does that imply that the Taliban leaders who admitted that the incident had happened were paid too?
At a time when the entire country was under the threat of militants, I not only brought the attention of the country to this video but also condemned it at the risk of my own life. Much to the disappointment of many “professional conspirators”, the video was made by the Taliban and not by me. My role was merely to bring it to public attention. No NGO made millions by ‘launching’ the video because the video was already on mobile phones and the internet since weeks. The only thing “added” to it was open and clear condemnation from me.
In the words of Rehana Hakim from Newsline in April 2009, “Everyone, it appears, had been silenced into submission by the Taliban guns, including the ruling ANP government. It was shocking to hear an ANP spokesperson remark that the incident had taken place before the Swat peace agreement, and that the video clip released by a Pukhtun activist to TV channels was intended to break the peace-deal! Did the incident, whether it happened now or six months back, not warrant investigation or condemnation?” If this was not the ‘right time’ to raise a voice in support of the Pakistani girl who was flogged, can someone tell me when is the ‘right time’ to do such a thing?
Thanks to the distraction and maligning campaign, I have received death threats, my credibility has been questioned, again, but only by people who do not matter. The rest have given me strength and support.
The people of Pakistan came out onto the streets so that no other girl should be treated in this manner. As for myself, I have been giving voice to the women of this country for the last 15 years, and will continue to do so. I have spoken against all forms of violations and abuse against women. If the news item titled ‘Suicide bombers have set out in search of Samar Minallah’ (Daily Mashriq, April 8, 2009) could not deter me, nothing will.
Enough of gimmickry has occurred in the name of politics and religion! Now, for yet another u- turn, again for portraying the perpetrators of the past as the heroes of today, I and many other conscious citizens of Pakistan will not let the women’s voices be muffled yet again. For all the self-proclaimed analysts who sit on their comfortable sofas commenting on how the girl could get up after she was flogged and the authenticity of the incident, a resident of Kala Kalay said, “I witnessed the flogging myself, so there is no reason to doubt the occurrence”, which was quoted in a local English daily. “At that time about 200 militants and 130 villagers were present to see the flogging of the girl. The flogging was a shocking development for the villagers. They had assembled to watch the screaming girl but everyone was frightened and helpless while the militants were unmoved,” he said.
If this is ‘fake’, what about the way Shabana was brutally killed in front of many silent spectators? All those (visible and invisible) Muslim Khans who remained unmoved have not only defamed our religion but also the integrity of each and every man and woman of Pakistan.
As for me, I will continue to challenge those who misuse Islam for power and politics. I will continue to raise my voice against individuals and political parties who use my religion to spread hatred. I will continue to expose and challenge the ‘conspiracy’ and ‘propaganda’ theories that try to befool the people of this country.
For those who continue to sit on the fence, I urge you to please join together to make our voices heard. It is essentially the sane voice of the silent majority that matters. In the words of Martin Luther King, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that, by the good people.”
The writer is a research anthropologist and documentary filmmaker with an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, UK. She is the Director of an NGO, Ethnomedia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org