Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Poor, Poor Shazia Khalid

Poor Dr. Shazia Khalid. Her woes continue. She and her husband, who gave up his engineering job in Libya to take care of her, are now living in a one-room dive in a bad neighborhood in London. They applied for asylum in Canada, where she has relatives and friends, but a Canadian bureaucrat rejected the asylum application on the ground that they were now safe in Britain.

A week ago New York Time’s columnist, Nicholas Kristof, published two articles on her plight:
‘Another Face of Terror’ (NYT, July 31, 2005) and ‘A Pakistani Rape, and a Pakistani Love Story’ (NYT, August 2, 2005).

In these articles Shazia Khalid reveals the following details about her brutal rape and the events that followed:

- The [rapist] spent the night in her room, beating her, casually watching television, raping her again and boasting about his powerful connections.
- Officials of Pakistan Petroleum rushed over and took decisive action.” They told me to be quiet and not to tell anybody because it would ruin my reputation," Dr. Shazia remembers. One official warned that if she reported the crime, she could be arrested.
- Dr. Shazia wasn't sure she dared to report the crime, but she begged for permission to contact her family. So, she says, officials drugged her into a stupor and then confined her in a psychiatric hospital in Karachi. "They wanted to declare me crazy," Dr. Shazia said bitterly. "That's why they shifted me to a hospital for crazy people."

-Dr. Shazia's husband, Khalid Aman, was working as an engineer in Libya, but he finally was notified and rushed back 11 days later. Dr. Shazia, by then freed, couldn't face him, but he comforted her, told her that she had done nothing wrong, and insisted that they report the rape to the police so that the criminal could be caught. That was, perhaps, naïve, particularly because there were rumors that the police had identified the rapist as a senior army officer and were covering up for him.

- [The] authorities locked up Dr. Shazia and her husband, Khalid Aman, keeping them under house arrest for two months. Then officials began to hint that Dr. Shazia was a loose woman, perhaps even a prostitute - presumably as a way to pressure her and her husband to keep quiet. Dr. Shazia, mortified, tried to kill herself. Mr. Khalid and their adopted son, Adnan, stopped her.

- General Musharraf was finding this couple's determination to get justice increasingly irritating. So, Dr. Shazia and Mr. Khalid said, the authorities ordered them to leave the country, and warned that if they stayed, they would be killed - by government "agencies" and that no one would even find their bodies.

- When Dr. Shazia demanded that Adnan be allowed to accompany her, the officials warned that there was no time and that she would be murdered if she delayed. Then the officials forced Dr. Shazia to make a video recording in which she thanked the government for helping her. And, she said, they warned her that if she had any contact with journalists or human rights groups, they would strike back at her - or at her relatives still in Pakistan. "They said, 'We know where your family is here,' " Dr. Shazia recalled. "I'm very scared and concerned about my family and their safety. But I believe we must tell the truth, and I have entrusted my family to God." So the Pakistani officials put Dr. Shazia and Mr. Khalid on a plane to London, without their son.

Since publishing his articles Nicholas Kristof has commenced upon a campaign to make the Canadian government allow the Khalids to live in Canada. According to a leading
Canadian newspaper:

In a note on the Times on-line version of the article, Mr. Kristof urges readers to contact Immigration Minister Joe Volpe and put pressure on him to admit the Khalids.
"Since they are lonely and isolated in London but have friends and relatives in Canada, the single thing that would help the most is if Canada reconsidered its refusal to grant them asylum."


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