Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition

Kariyon ka Qabristan, as the graveyard is called, is a cemetery for condemned women in southern Pakistan.  Photo shows a Pakistani woman at sunset in Lahore. (AFP file photo)
Kariyon ka Qabristan, as the graveyard is called, is a cemetery for condemned women in southern Pakistan. Photo shows a Pakistani woman at sunset in Lahore. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 30 July 2021

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition
  • It is a testament to the obnoxious practice of 'honor killing'
  • Kariyon ka Qabristan has around 400 graves, all belong to women killed in ‘honor killings,’ graveyard caretaker says

SINDH, Pakistan: In Fattu Shah, a small village in Ghotki district on the border of the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab, a cemetery is reserved for women. Not just any women, locals say, but “condemned women,” or karis, killed over perceived offences to “honor.”

Hundreds of women are murdered each year in Pakistan, mostly by family members, in “honor killings” that punish women for eloping, fraternizing with men or other infractions in defiance of the conservative values that govern women’s modesty in the country.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 430 cases of honor killing were reported in 2020, involving 148 male and 363 female victims. Of these cases, 215 victims, 136 of them female, belonged to the southern Sindh province.

Though the law forbids honor killings, experts say the enforcement of justice is often lax in such cases, with proceedings at times being drawn out while the accused are freed on bail and cases fade away.

Kariyon ka Qabristan, or the cemetery for condemned women, as the graveyard is called, is a testament to the continuing practice.

“The administration ... does not take any action on this lawlessness. People are afraid to talk. The women are helpless. If one is a victim, others are silent mourners.”

Zarka Shar, Pakistani women advocate

At least half a dozen villagers interviewed by Arab News — who spoke on condition of anonymity — said they knew of women who had been killed in the name of honor and buried in the graveyard in Fattu Shah.

Ali Nawaz, the 67-year-old caretaker of the four-decade-old cemetery, said there were at least 400 graves there, all of which belonged to women killed in the name of honor.

“Burials have decreased over the past few years, but women are still being killed in the name of honor,” he said.

Among the “condemned women” is Naseeran Chanesar, the aunt of 21-year-old shepherd Ilah Bux. He was 10 when his mother’s sister disappeared from her village home in 2013. For days, Bux kept asking his mother where Chanesar was, he said. “It was on the third day that a villager whispered in my ear that she had been buried in Kariyon ka Qabristan.”

Bux said he did not know which grave in the cemetery was his aunt’s: “The only person I could ask is my mother, but she also doesn’t know the exact grave.”

The caretaker said no visitors come to the graveyard even on religious holidays such as the Eid festivals or in the holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims visit the graves of their family members and friends.

“Many graves have decayed over the years and are no longer visible,” he said, “and if someone even tries to come here, they cannot identify their loved ones.”

Another lost grave is of Gul Bano, who was killed by her elder brother in 2014, Bano’s cousin Murad Mehar said.

“On every Shab-e-Barat (major event in the Islamic calendar) when people go to graveyards to offer fateha (prayers) at the graves of their loved ones, we see Bano’s mother weeping in a corner of her house, remembering the daughter she can’t visit,” Mehar said.

Zarka Shar, an activist from Beruth, another village in Ghotki, said a graveyard had been reserved for victims of honor killings “because even after death, these ‘karis’ are not considered worthy to be buried in normal graveyards.”

“No rituals are performed for those killed and they are buried without being bathed,” she added. “This graveyard was built to spread fear.”

Shar said that even though the number of honor killings and subsequent burials in the graveyard had declined after the media had shone a spotlight on the practice in recent years, “there is still fear.”

“Even now if someone is buried, no one reveals it,” Shar said. “The administration ... does not take any action on this lawlessness. People are afraid to talk. The women are helpless. If one is a victim, others are silent mourners.”

Usman Abdullah, the deputy commissioner of Gotkhi, denied that the graveyard in question was reserved for karis.

Murtaza Wahab, a spokesperson for the Sindh government, acknowledged that incidents of honor killing occurred in the province but said he was not aware of a graveyard specifically for karis.

“I will summon a report from the local administration,” he said.

Mehnaz Rehman, the executive director of the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organization based in Islamabad, said the graveyard existed and that she had visited it several years ago as part of a fact-finding mission.

“There are painful stories,” she said. “We saw the grave of a mother who we were told was killed and buried there because she had dared to challenge customs.”


Search for Gabby Petito’s fiance in Florida wilderness enters sixth day

Search for Gabby Petito’s fiance in Florida wilderness enters sixth day
Updated 13 sec ago

Search for Gabby Petito’s fiance in Florida wilderness enters sixth day

Search for Gabby Petito’s fiance in Florida wilderness enters sixth day
  • Mystery deepens around a case that has engrossed Americans
  • Many Americans have closely followed the case since Petito as reported missing on September 11
The exhaustive search for slain travel blogger Gabby Petito’s fiancé in a vast Florida wilderness entered a sixth day on Thursday as the mystery deepened around a case that has engrossed Americans.
A team of divers joined police and FBI agents using boats and helicopters looking for Brian Laundrie, 23, in the alligator-infested Carlton Reserve on Wednesday, but a spokesman said at nightfall that they had found “nothing” to show for their efforts.
Authorities have not said why they are convinced Laundrie, whom police call a “person of interest” in the case, may still be somewhere inside the more than 9,700-hectare wilderness preserve near his home in North Port, Florida, more than a week after he told family members he was headed there to hike alone.
North Port police say Laundrie’s parents did not report him missing until Sept. 14, three days after the family last saw him. The Carlton Reserve has more than 128 km of hiking trails but is dominated by swampy water.
Many Americans have closely followed the case since Petito, 22, was reported missing on Sept. 11. Ten days earlier, Laundrie had returned home to North Port without her from a cross-country road trip the couple chronicled in social media posts.
Petito’s body was discovered on Sunday in a remote corner of the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming, less than 300m from where, on the evening of Aug. 27, another pair of travel bloggers caught video images of the couple’s white Ford Transit parked on a dirt road.
In identifying her remains, Teton County medical examiners ruled Petito’s death a homicide, but did not make the cause of her death public.
Petito and Laundrie left her home state of New York in July, heading west on what they called a “van life” trip. They posted photos to social media as they traveled through Kansas, Colorado and Utah.
Witnesses last saw Petito on Aug. 24 as she left a Salt Lake City hotel. She posted her final photo the next day.
Petito’s family believes she was headed to Grand Teton National Park when they last heard from her. Her body was found at the edge of that park near the Spread River.
Investigators searched the Laundrie family home in North Port last week and were seen loading cardboard boxes into a van and towing away a silver Ford Mustang.
In seeking search warrants, investigators cited text messages from Petito’s phone to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, that struck Schmidt as suspicious.
The final text from Petito’s phone came on Aug. 30 and read only: “No service in Yosemite,” a national park in California that she and Laundrie are not believed to have visited during their trip.
On Aug. 12, a 911 caller reported to emergency dispatchers that Laundrie was slapping and hitting Petito in front of the Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab, Utah.
Moab police pulled the couple over in their van on a highway near Arches National Park. Body camera footage of that encounter shows Petito sobbing as she describes a fight between the couple that she said escalated into her slapping Laundrie as he drove the van.
The officers did not detain Petito or Laundrie but told them to spend the night apart.

Ukraine tightens coronavirus lockdown curbs

Ukraine tightens coronavirus lockdown curbs
Updated 36 min 48 sec ago

Ukraine tightens coronavirus lockdown curbs

Ukraine tightens coronavirus lockdown curbs
  • Ukraine imposed a nationwide “yellow” code after cases dropped over the summer

KYIV: Ukraine tightened coronavirus lockdown curbs on Thursday, restricting large events and occupancy at gyms, cinemas and cultural sites, after a recent steady increase in new infections.
Ukraine imposed a nationwide “yellow” code after cases dropped over the summer, allowing it to lift lockdown restrictions.
This week, however, the government extended a state of emergency that allows authorities to impose curbs until year-end to rein in infections.
The health ministry has said it plans compulsory coronavirus vaccinations for those in occupations such as teaching and employment in state institutions and local governments.
Ukraine’s pandemic tally of infections stands at 2.4 million, with 55,284 deaths.


Melbourne anti-lockdown protests fizzle out as daily COVID-19 cases hit pandemic high

Melbourne anti-lockdown protests fizzle out as daily COVID-19 cases hit pandemic high
Updated 54 min 25 sec ago

Melbourne anti-lockdown protests fizzle out as daily COVID-19 cases hit pandemic high

Melbourne anti-lockdown protests fizzle out as daily COVID-19 cases hit pandemic high
  • Police and union officials have said extremist and far-right groups joined the demonstrations
  • Australia’s total infections topped 92,000, with some 61,000 recorded since mid-June when the first Delta case was detected

SYDNEY: Melbourne’s streets were largely quiet on Thursday after three days of anti-lockdown protests, with hundreds of police officers on patrol in the city to prevent another rally as COVID-19 cases in Victoria hit a daily pandemic record.
Police in central Melbourne were checking people’s reasons for being outside, footage on social media showed, after a violent protest on Wednesday in Australia’s second-largest city resulted in more than 200 arrests.
A vaccination center at the Melbourne Town Hall would be shut until Monday after several of its staff were physically and verbally abused on their way to work, operator cohealth said on Thursday.
“Why would you abuse, as I’m told, why would you spit on people who are doing that sort of work?,” Premier Daniel Andrews said in a media briefing in Melbourne, the state capital. “That is ugly, that is uncalled for.”
Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the city of 5 million since officials earlier this week ordered a two-week closure of building sites and made vaccines mandatory for construction workers to limit the spread of the virus.
Police and union officials have said extremist and far-right groups joined the demonstrations.
Victoria on Thursday reported 766 new locally acquired cases, topping its previous pandemic daily high of 725 hit on Aug. 5, 2020, and four new deaths. Neighbouring New South Wales reported 1,063 new infections, up from 1,035 a day earlier, and six new deaths.
Australia is fighting a third wave of infections from an outbreak of the Delta variant in its two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and its capital Canberra, forcing nearly half the country’s 25 million people into strict stay-at-home restrictions.
Officials have promised to ease lockdown rules once 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, which is expected next month. Some 55.5 percent of people aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated in New South Wales and about 45 percent in Victoria.
Dual-dose vaccinations in New South Wales are rising by around 1 percent a day, state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said, putting it on track to hit 70 percent by around Oct. 8. Officials have pledged to ease lockdown curbs on the Monday after that target has reached.
Australia’s total infections topped 92,000, with some 61,000 recorded since mid-June when the first Delta case was detected in Sydney. Total deaths are just below 1,200, but still lower than in many other comparable countries.


Under Taliban, thriving Afghan music scene heads to silence

Under Taliban, thriving Afghan music scene heads to silence
Updated 23 September 2021

Under Taliban, thriving Afghan music scene heads to silence

Under Taliban, thriving Afghan music scene heads to silence
  • Families where music is a profession passed through generations are looking for ways to leave the country

KABUL, Afghanistan: A month after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the music is going quiet.
The last time the militant group ruled the country, in the late 1990s, it outright banned music. So far this time, the government set up by the Taliban hasn’t taken that step officially. But already, musicians are afraid a ban will come, and some Taliban fighters on the ground have started enforcing rules on their own, harassing musicians and music venues.
Many wedding halls are limiting music at their gatherings. Musicians are afraid to perform. At least one reported that Taliban fighters at one of the many checkpoints around the capital smashed his instrument. Drivers silence their radios whenever they see a Taliban checkpoint.
In the alleys of Kharabat, a neighborhood in Kabul’s Old City, families where music is a profession passed through generations are looking for ways to leave the country. The profession was already hit hard by Afghanistan’s foundering economy, along with the coronavirus pandemic, and some families now too fearful to work are selling off furniture to get by.
“The current situation is oppressive,” said Muzafar Bakhsh, a 21-year-old who played in a wedding band. His family had just sold off part of its belongings at Kabul’s new flea market, Chaman-e-Hozari. “We keep selling them … so we don’t die of starvation,” said Bakhsh, whose late grandfather was Ustad Rahim Bakhsh, a famous ustad — or maestro — of Afghan classical music.
Afghanistan has a strong musical tradition, influenced by Iranian and Indian classical music. It also has a thriving pop music scene, adding electronic instruments and dance beats to more traditional rhythms. Both have flourished in the past 20 years.
Asked whether the Taliban government will ban music again, spokesman Bilal Karimi told The Associated Press, “Right now, it is under review and when a final decision is made, the Islamic Emirate will announce it.”
But music venues are already feeling the pressure since the Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15.
Wedding halls are usually scene to large gatherings with music and dancing, most often segregated between men’s and women’s sections. At three halls visited by the AP, staff said the same thing. Taliban fighters often show up, and although so far they haven’t objected to music, their presence is intimidating. Musicians refuse to show up. In the male sections of weddings, the halls no longer have live music or DJs. In the women’s section — where the Taliban fighters have less access — female DJs sometimes still play.
Some karaoke parlors have closed. Others still open face harassment. One parlor visited by the AP stopped karaoke but stayed open, serving waterpipes and playing recorded music. Last week, Taliban fighters showed up, broke an accordion and tore down signs and stickers referring to music or karaoke. A few days later, they returned and told the customers to leave immediately.
Many musicians are applying for visas abroad.
In the family home of another ustad in Kharabat, everyone’s go-bag is packed, ready to leave when they can. In one room, a group of musicians was gathered on a recent day, drinking tea and discussing the situation. They shared photos and videos from their performances around the world — Moscow, Baku, New Delhi, Dubai, New York.
“Musicians do not belong here anymore. We must leave. The love and affection of the last years are gone,” said a drum player, whose career has spanned 35 years and who is the master of a leading music education center in Kabul. Like many other musicians, he spoke on condition he not be named, fearing reprisals from the Taliban.
Another musician in the room said the Taliban broke a keyboard worth $3,000 when they saw it in his car as he crossed through a checkpoint. Others said they were shipping their most valuable instruments outside the country or hiding them. One had dismantled his tabla — a type of drum — and hidden the parts in different locations. Another buried his rebab, a stringed instrument, in his courtyard. Some said they hid instruments behind false walls.
One who managed to leave already is Aryana Sayeed, a top female pop star who was also a judge on the TV talent show, “The Voice of Afghanistan.” Already used to death threats by Islamic hard-liners, Sayeed decided to escape the day the Taliban took over Kabul.
“I had to survive and be the voice for other women in Afghanistan,” said Sayeed, now in Istanbul. She said she was asking Turkish authorities to help other musicians get out of her homeland. “The Taliban are not friends of Afghanistan, they are our enemies. Only enemies would want to destroy your history and your music,” she said.
At the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, most of the classrooms are empty. None of the teachers nor the 350 students have come back since the takeover. The institute was once famous for its inclusiveness and emerged as the face of a new Afghanistan. Now, it is guarded by fighters from the Haqqani network, an ally of the Taliban considered a terrorist group by the United States.
Inside the institute, pictures of boys and girls playing hang from the walls, dusty pianos rest inside locked rooms, and some instruments have been stacked in a container on the school’s patio. The fighters guarding the site said they were waiting for orders from the leadership on what to do with them.
“We’re not interested in listening to these things,” one fighter said, standing next to a set of dhambouras, a traditional string instrument. “I don’t even know what these items are. Personally, I’ve never listened to them and I’m not interested.”
In a classroom at the end of the corridor, a Taliban fighter rested on a mattress listening to a male voice chanting on his cell phone, apparently one of the instrument-less religious anthems common among the group.
Back in Kharabat, Mohammed Ibrahim Afzali once ran the family business repairing musical instruments. In mid-August, he put away his tools, broke the instruments left in the workshop and closed down. Now the 61-year-old sells chips and snacks to help feed his family of 13.
“I made this tiny shop. God is merciful, and we will find a piece of bread,” he said.


New Zealand’s PM hopes to avoid future coronavirus lockdowns

New Zealand’s PM hopes to avoid future coronavirus lockdowns
Updated 23 September 2021

New Zealand’s PM hopes to avoid future coronavirus lockdowns

New Zealand’s PM hopes to avoid future coronavirus lockdowns
  • New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she doesn’t want to use lockdowns in the future and sees vaccinations as the “golden ticket” to navigating the pandemic.
Her remarks came as Auckland remained in a sixth week of lockdown following an outbreak of the coronavirus’ delta variant.
New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus and is trying to completely eliminate the outbreak in its largest city through drastic measures, at least until vaccination rates improve. Fifteen more local transmissions were reported Thursday.
Ardern says she sees a hopeful path in using vaccinations coupled with public health measures to prevent widespread hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. About 62 percent of New Zealanders have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.