Civil society members on Monday staged a protest demo outside the Peshawar Press Club against a jirga’s decision in Kohistan condemning four women to death for dancing and singing with men at a wedding ceremony.
Chanting slogans, members of Pakhtun Civil Society Network, Shirkatgah, Blue Vain, Aurat Foundation, Camp and Woman Recourse Centre demanded an end to the jirga system and blamed the government for failing to ensure protection to the women. Majority of the participants were from the tribal areas, where people have reportedly been the worst-affected by the jirga system.
“Women have been subjected to cruelty in the name of honour by the jirgas and it is high time that the system should be abolished,” opined Niaz Mohammad, a resident of Landi Kotal, Khyber agency.
Shereen Javaid of Aurat foundation said, “We strongly condemned this act of brutality against women.” He said that by the time the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of the case, it was “too late. There are speculations that the women have been killed,” she added.
Another protester, Shagufta Hayat, urged the government to strive to get the women released if they are still alive. “Everyone has the right to entertainment: clapping and singing songs are the rare moments in life and these can no way be termed crimes,” she added.
Idreas Kamal, a tribal elder also protesting the jirga’s verdict, said that no cleric or tribal chief has the right to issue an edict (fatwa). He added that “neither the jirga system nor Islam allows for such brutality.” The tribal elder demanded that the matter be handed over to the Shariat Court or the National Ideology Council. He said that if the jirga members find handing over the women to the government humiliating, they should surrender them to the judicial commission appointed by the Supreme Court.
The tribal jirga had declared four women and two men ‘Ghul’ (fornicators) two weeks ago after they were allegedly caught on videotape singing and dancing together at a wedding ceremony in Bando Baidar village of Peech Bela union council. The video caused furore in the community, which felt the video had stained the honour of the tribes.
The jirga had reportedly condemned to death the four women for defying strict tribal customs; however, there are conflicting reports about their safety. Where some news channels report that the woman have been shot died, Hazara Commissioner Khalid Khan claims that the women are “safe and secure in their homes.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.