Pakistan crisis: Taliban seen flogging teenage girl in shock video: Militant brutality exposed in once-peaceful district Young woman accused of affair with married man
Courtesy: The Guardian
by Declan Walsh, Islamabad
3 April 2009
A video of a teenage girl being flogged by Taliban fighters has emerged from Pakistan’s Swat Valley, offering a shocking glimpse of militant brutality in the once-peaceful district, and a sign of deepening Taliban influence in the country.
The video, shot on a mobile phone, shows a burka-clad woman face down on the ground. Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly.
“Please stop it,” she begs, whimpering or screaming in pain with each blow to the backside. “Either kill me or stop it now.” A crowd of men stands by, watching silently. Off camera a male voice orders: “Hold her legs tightly,” as she squirms and yelps.
After 34 lashes the flogging ends and the wailing woman is led into a stone building, trailed by a militant with a Kalashnikov.
A Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, agreed the Taliban were responsible for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.
The Guardian received the film through Samar Minallah, a Pashtun documentary maker and anthropologist who lived in Swat for two years in the late 1990s. It has been passed between residents by phone.
Minallah said the punishment had been inflicted within the last 10 days, following the signing of a peace deal under which the provincial government ceded control of the valley’s judicial system to the militants. “This video is being widely circulated because the Taliban want people to see it. They want to give the message that this is taking place after the peace deal because this is something they ideologically believe in,” she said.
Local sources confirmed the video was recent, although estimates of its timing varied between one and three weeks ago. The Taliban said it predated the peace deal.
Sher Muhammad Khan, an official in Swat with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said: “They have committed so many atrocities since the peace deal. There is nobody to control them; they decide disputes according to whims.”
Since the 15 February deal, a hybrid of traditional and Islamic law has been operational in Mingora, the largest city in Swat district. The qazi courts, as they are known, are not operated by the Taliban but by a related political movement. They have a murky legal status because the changes have yet to be signed into law.
However, in outlying districts, where government writ has been crushed, gun justice prevails. The woman in the video, named as Chaand and believed to be aged 17, was punished in Matta, a district further up the Swat Valley. Minallah and other sources said the girl was punished without trial on suspicion of having had an illicit relationship with a married man.
The woman’s brother is among the men pinning her down, she added. “It’s symbolic that he does it with his own hands. It gives him honour in local society, that he has done it for the sake of religion.”
The valley is controlled by Maulana Fazlullah, a charismatic preacher who has sworn loyalty to Baitullah Mehsud, the overall Taliban leader, who claimed responsibility for last Monday’s eight-hour assault on a police centre in Lahore and has vowed to mount attacks in Washington.
The effective surrender of government authority in Swat has caused alarm in Pakistan and among its allies. Minallah said she feared Talibanisation would spread across Pakistan. “I have distributed this video because I feel people are in denial. They don’t want to believe what is happening.”