Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rape Victim Stoned To Death In Somalia

In a stadium packed with people.

Her name was Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. She was thirteen years old.

She was charged with the crime of adultery, but I suspect her real crime (at least in the eyes of her accusers) was being a girl, getting raped, and then having the audacity to speak out against the people who raped her, as opposed to blaming herself and staying silent. I am sure that women and children in Somalia have learned their lesson from this tragedy for they have seen what happens to those who imagine they will achieve justice through speaking the truth.

I am trying to imagine what the onlookers must have been feeling. Were they feeling righteous indignation? Mob euphoria? Fear? I'll admit, I have been raised in a culture where executions are not public and I have difficulty putting myself in their shoes, difficulty not condemning them for their cowardice and their bloodlust. However, I am extraordinarily lucky. I was born in a country where we have basic freedoms protected by the constitution, where information is readily available and literacy is actively encouraged, where we all have the right to vote. I find it hard to imagine the daily life of a woman in Somalia. I can't know, from my position of extreme privilege, what it is like to live in a country where a quarter of the children die before the age of five, where violence and starvation are part of daily life. Nothing in my frame of reference can make the experience of having a religious militia take over and impose their view of morality upon me anything but incomprehensible to me. I have no idea what choices I would make if I found myself in that situation. How can I condemn those who watched when I have no idea what horrors they have already seen and what horrors they hope to avoid seeing again? The truth is, even though I can't understand, I know that if my child's life depended upon me watching an execution, I would do it.

So instead of condemning the spectators, I will instead say a word of thanks for being lucky enough to live in a country where the idea that a thirteen year old rape victim would be publicly stoned to death is repugnant. I will be grateful for all the rights I take for granted, rights for which men and women died so that I may have them, rights which many women around the world can only dream, and rights which our own homegrown religious extremists would take away if enough people let them.

Please exercise your right to vote on Tuesday.

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