Uzma Ayub does not have one story to tell. She has a story for each day of the 13 months she was allegedly in custody of her rapists.
“Nobody can understand what happened to me during the past two years,” said Uzma, 17, speaking through her bedroom window as she is not allowed to directly interact with journalists. Holding her newborn girl, Zeba, she vowed to fight for justice till she breathes her last.
“I was raped and my brother was killed for supporting me. I will fight until I bring all the culprits behind bars,” she said. Thirteen people, including three policemen and an army soldier, are accused of keeping the girl for more than a year and gang raping her.
In the courtyard of their house, Uzma’s mother, draped in an old chadar, talked about the abduction of her daughter in July 2010. “Uzma was crying and begging them for mercy, but they dragged her outside the house and threw her into a vehicle. There was nothing I could do. The people who were dragging her were uniformed men,” she said.
Bilqisam Jana, 50, is a mother who has lost too much in a short time. Not only was her daughter allegedly gang raped, her son, Alamzeb Khattak, who was actively fighting for his sister’s rights, was killed last month. Ironically, the murder outside a district court in Karak happened on December 9, on the eve of World Human Rights Day.
Wiping her tears, Bilqisam said the abduction happened in less than fifteen minutes, but scarred their lives forever. After the kidnapping, we were unable to face the community and our blood relatives turned away, she said.
Despite all that has happened, Bilqisam keeps her composure in front of Uzma. She makes sure Uzma does not see her crying for it may weaken her resolve to fight for justice. “Uzma was missing for more than a year and we did not know whether she was dead or alive. We could only pray,” she said sitting on her charpoy.
Uzma is reported to have been kept by one group of men for nine months, which later handed her over to another group who kept her for four months. Then finally in September last year, Uzma called from a PCO and told her family where she was. Her brother, Alamzeb, rushed to bring her home.
“She was pregnant when she came,” said Bilqisam, stopping in the middle of her sentence and taking a deep breath, “In Pakhtun society abortion is a must in such a situation, but Alamzeb stood by his sister and said he would support her.”
Alamzeb would say that the child was a proof of Uzma’s innocence and would play a vital role in bringing her justice. “His assurances helped Uzma stand firm and record her statement in a court in Karak against the rapists,” said Bilqisam Jana.
But Zeba’s birth on January 20 was another trial for the family. The child went missing for more than 15 hours after she was born. The blood samples of both Uzma and Zeba have been sent for DNA tests in Rawalpindi, but after Zeba went missing, Uzma doubts if the child is hers.
After Alamzeb was gunned down and Uzma’s family threatened to withdraw their case, Bilqisam Jana, her four sons and two daughters shifted to Peshawar, while Uzma’s father stayed behind in Karak. The Peshawar High Court took suo motu notice of the murder last month and ordered that all cases in Karak’s courts be shifted to the provincial capital.
Alongside Bilqisam was her 18-year-old son Zafran, wearing a black waistcoat and white shalwar qameez. “Police is meant to protect you, but my brother was killed in the presence of police. Alamzeb said he was being threatened, but no one paid any attention to him and ultimately he was killed. Now I am saying that I am being threatened and soon my fate may be like my brother’s,” Zafran said.
Then the young man said something that took everyone by surprise: “Sometimes when I try to sleep at night and I can’t, I go to my sister’s room, stand beside her bed and consider killing her. It was because of Uzma that my family was humiliated and my brother killed.”
Zafran said he would have killed his sister a long time ago, but his hope in justice stops him. “We are alive but our souls are dead,” he said, adding, “Every night before I go to sleep, I think someone will come and kill all of us like they killed my brother.”
“We have been receiving death threats and you know how easy it is to hurl a hand grenade at a person or throw it inside someone’s house or even gun down some one,” Zafran said.
“It’s like living in a bad movie.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.