By Omer Zaheer Meer
October 15, 2013
She did not know that such a beautiful morning could be the beginning of something so ugly and horrendous. She went to her school as usual but was stopped by a group of armed men at a check post, belonging to the force that now ruled her town. While teasing and harassment on the way to and back from school was a routine, this time around she was frisked by men, something alien to her culture. The comments and way of frisking to the terrified young girl were anything but professional. Scared, she rushed towards her home hearing the lewd comments directed at her. She asked her younger siblings to not tell their parents, as she did not want her education to end.
Slowly, but surely the transgressions by the armed extremists started increasing. She felt helpless as she did not want to leave her studies and they would not let her continue in peace without harassment. The matter eventually came to the notice of her parents. Being the strong and determined teenager that she was, she assured them that she could handle the situation, but her parents were scared. They knew those psychopaths could do anything. Their State and governments were helpless and would not be able to protect them. They used to hear many disturbing stories of abductions and violations of young girls in their area by these people ‘governing’ them now. Seeing the love of their daughter for her education they let her continue though with strict instructions of extreme caution and avoidance.
She ignored the harassment and eve-teasing, determined to continue her studies, which she rightly believed was the most important right of every girl.
A few days later, one day after coming home from school she was looking after her beloved plants in the little garden in their house. There were strong bangs on the door. Her father answered the door. She looked up and saw those same men who used to man the check-post on her way to school. Scared, she ran inside her home to her mother. One of them saw her and ran after her while others started beating her father. They took him inside too. The armed men now ordered the entire family to line up for a ‘detailed’ body search.
It became a routine occurrence. The men would often break into the house demanding a detailed body search of the family. During one such instance one of them ran his index finger down her cheek. It terrified her and her family.
Her father immediately stopped her from going to school. She cried and pleaded to be allowed to continue her education. But her family was terrified. More so, because they had been warned by their neighbours about the armed men on the check post (just 200 metres from their home), watching the teen girl gardening and other chores. Her father had told them that it was no big deal as she was just a kid. He did not know how wrong he was.
Her mother went to young girl’s uncle to tell their relatives the worrying situation. She shared that several times she had caught the occupying men staring at her daughter, who would raise their thumbs up to her, pointing towards her teen daughter saying, “Very good, very good.” Disgusted and concerned they decided the teenager needed protection and planned for her to spend nights with her uncle’s family.
On that fateful day, the teenaged girl, sad for not been able to continue her studies like many of her friends due to the armed men now ruling her town, was asking her parents to let her go to school. Just then five armed men barged in their home. They were pointing their guns and screaming. One of them took her mother, six-year-old sister and father to one room while others took her to another. They started taking turns raping the 14-year-old girl who was crying for help and screaming, asking what her crime was. What did she do wrong? She only wanted to study. But the brutal, shameful laughter conveyed to her that she was not amongst humanity anymore.
As if the humiliation and brutality were not enough the armed man from the other room came out, proudly announcing killing her father, mother and young sister. Her world came down trembling. The barbaric animal disguised in human skin then proceeded to rape her while she continued her pleading. When done with the heinous crime he started beating the little girl as if she was a punching bag. Still, unsatisfied, he proceeded to shoot her in the head. To satisfy some evil urge he then set alight her body and went back to fry some wings to eat. After they left the fire started spreading. Seeing the smoke, the neighbours rushed and saw the carnage.
This young ‘Malala’ brutalised was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Her town is Al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq and the brutal animals forcing her and several other girls off education and then committing the monstrous acts were five of the six soldiers from a check-post near her home belonging to the 502nd infantry regiment of the US Army.
Following a successful initial cover-up, one of the men broke down during a psychological counselling session, which he claimed to have asked for to “bypass a command structure prone to cover-ups and get an audience with Army investigators.”
It is high time that we rise to defend the rights of helpless females across the globe without consideration of underlying geo-political interests, race, caste, colour or creed. The message would not go through until Malalas attacked by Taliban are given protection and even honoured but Malalas brutalised by the American soldiers are buried in the wilderness. We must remember that hypocrisy breeds contempt even for the noblest of causes.
Omer Zaheer Meer is an economist, a chartered accountant, financial analyst and anti-money laundering expert.