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In Some Ways, Worse Than Bombing
December 8, 2008 12:59 AM   Subscribe

Women in the Middle East and Asia, sometimes have acid thrown on them in the street as a way of punishing them for breaking cultural mores. (caution: opens to disturbing photo) This is a phenomenon that we hear little about in the West. A few months back, some Stanford students collaborated to make a graphic novel available online to raise awareness. Semi-Double Post.

[Via]
posted by aliceinreality (36 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: The previous post covered this really well and the only thing new here is an op-ed. This is a bit more than semi-double, and the thread's kind of tanking in the mean time. -- cortex



 
The most haunting part of my visit with Ms. Azar, aside from seeing her face, was a remark by her 12-year-old son, Ahsan Shah, who lovingly leads her around everywhere. He told me that in one house where they stayed for a time after the attack, a man upstairs used to beat his wife every day and taunt her, saying: “You see the woman downstairs who was burned by her husband? I’ll burn you just the same way.”

Reading this, I'm overcome with wanting to hurt and threaten this man as he does his wife. I don't know if that makes me better or worse. I fear it makes me no different.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:16 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


In a related story, an Iranian man who blinded a woman with acid has been sentenced to be blinded with acid.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:16 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Given that there was a nicely fleshed-out post on this in May with 50% of the links you're providing, I feel that I, in the west, hear plenty about it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:26 AM on December 8, 2008


Over 7,000 attacks in just two Pakistani cities since 1994. This is terrible. I hope some people here will be motivated to donate to the Progressive Women's Association or other charities to help these people.
posted by MaxK at 2:13 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, we've got to hear about it once in a while. In France, I knew girls who were afraid because the Freres Musulmans (muslim brothers) would want to punish them because they were not dressed in a proper way.
posted by nicolin at 3:18 AM on December 8, 2008


Reading this, I'm overcome with wanting to hurt and threaten this man as he does his wife. I don't know if that makes me better or worse. I fear it makes me no different.

Actually, it makes you better. You're making this sound more complicated than it is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:16 AM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Increasing numbers of Afghan women are committing suicide by setting fire to themselves to escape difficult lives."

"A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by northwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands."
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:22 AM on December 8, 2008


We should invade them and put a stop to this.
posted by Eideteker at 4:25 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


In what sense to we "hear little" about this in the west? It seems to be one of the major talking points brought up all the time by people with an axe to grind against muslims/arabs.
posted by delmoi at 5:33 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying our way of life is perfect or anything but wow... Someone should tell them about equal rights. We did away with the whole "women are inferior" thing years ago.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:39 AM on December 8, 2008


There are people in the US who would do this and worse to unbelievers, and use religious convictions as justification. It isn't a Muslim thing. it's a religious crazy thing, and we grow some dandies here in the ole USA as well.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:50 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


We did away with the whole "women are inferior" thing years ago.

Yeah, we in the enlightened west did away with it centuries after the backwards middle-east.

The men that throw acid on their wives are horrible people. People in the middle-east and asia thing that men that throw acid on their wives are horrible people. Sposal abuse and oppression of women are not arab/muslim/middle-eastern problems, they are global problems. Stop trying to claim some sort of moral high-ground.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:55 AM on December 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Stop trying to claim some sort of moral high-ground.

Ironically, one may claim the moral high ground for murdering a spouse in many places, which is the point I believe.
posted by Brian B. at 6:59 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


We did away with the whole "women are inferior" thing years ago.

Hahahahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHaha. Oh god. And posted by a guy. HEE! That's a good one.

We maybe be past the point of throwing acid on women or burying them alive, but we haven't done away with the whole women are inferior attitude. Not by a long shot.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:05 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I read stuff like this I feel happy to have been raised in America. REALLY happy.
posted by flipyourwig at 7:15 AM on December 8, 2008


There's a woman in my program at school who is from Afghanistan and has spent a lot of time shooting images of women who set themselves on fire. You can see them here, under the Afghanistan Women gallery.

Every time I see one of the pictures it makes me wonder how bad things have to be to set fire to oneself, and that breaks my heart a little bit each time.
posted by riane at 8:16 AM on December 8, 2008


Funny, acid has always furthered my transcendence of cultural mores. Oh, you mean like burn-burn acid?
posted by Curry at 8:43 AM on December 8, 2008


Lovely culture. Lovely. Why am I not surprised? Ranks right up there with those African nations that condone female circumcision.
posted by VicNebulous at 8:44 AM on December 8, 2008


Awful. Anybody that participates in throwing acid on another person deserves a quick blow to the brain stem and summary disposal in the nearest municipal trash incinerator.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2008


We did away with the whole "women are inferior" thing years ago.

It's alarmingly common in the west for men to murder their wives or girlfriends.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:12 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


We should invade them and put a stop to this.

We should understand and respect their cultural choices, and allow them to continue their religious tradition in Europe and North America.

Sposal abuse and oppression of women are not arab/muslim/middle-eastern problems, they are global problems. Stop trying to claim some sort of moral high-ground.

Stop trying to equate the two situations by completely disregarding the relative magnitude and severity of the problem.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:24 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stop trying to equate the two situations by completely disregarding the relative magnitude and severity of the problem.

Is the magnitude somehow higher than cases of sposal abuse in other parts of the world? I see no evidence of that in the articles. Certainly this is a particularly gruesome incarnation of the problem of domestic violence, but is it more common than say women being beaten or killed by an intimate partner in China? Eastern Europe? Africa? Latin America? North America/Western Europe/Oceania/the civilized West? I don't know the answer, but I do know that there is a whole shit load of women getting the crap kicked out of them by their loved ones all over the place, and that includes right in our own back yards.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:38 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


We should understand and respect their cultural choices,

Up to a point, I completely agree with you. But when people are being harmed by those choices; maimed for life in some cases, and it is being institutionally ignored by the government, we may want to try to exert some pressure. I'm not saying that bombs and troops on the ground are the solution, but surely there must be some kind of human rights group we can employ to sanction nations which condone this? And when the governments are trying to put a stop to this, we can provide them with resources to make their protection of these women easier.

I don't really have an answer, this is just one of those topics sets me off and forces me into the "I don't care how, just make it stop" mindset which is completely counterproductive when it comes to discussing it.
posted by quin at 9:44 AM on December 8, 2008


"There are people in the US who would do this and worse to unbelievers, and use religious convictions as justification. It isn't a Muslim thing. it's a religious crazy thing, and we grow some dandies here in the ole USA as well."

It's definitely not a Muslim thing. Nor is it strictly a religious, Middle-Eastern, or even gender-based thing. It's akin to a burning-cross, a spray-painted swastika, or a lynched black man: a message designed to not only marginalize the victim, but to instill fear in the larger community.

To wit:

My grandfather was always a political activist, instrumental in bringing the Independence Movement to his community in south India in the 1940s. After 1950, he served as mayor of his city, state councilman, and in other political posts. He never stopped serving the community, even after he quit politics, opening two free community clinics and working as head (and, in the beginning, only) physician in both.
in the late 80s, a religion-fueled political clash broke out in his home city. My grandfather was visiting us in the U.S. at the time. Ever the selfless statesman, he immediately went back to mediate despite the family's pleas to stay uninvolved. He succeeded somewhat, and helped put an end to the worst of the conflict (riots, assaults, mob violence, that sort of stuff).
Several months later, while my grandfather was walking back home from the clinic one evening, a stranger stopped him to chat, which wasn't at all unusual. He loved talking to people, my Tata did.
But this man poured a bottle of acid on my grandfather's face. Apparently, he was unhappy with his "interference" in the conflict. My grandfather lost his sight almost entirely, and was disfigured literally beyond recognition. He underwent dozens of skin grafts, lost what little vision he had left, and eventually sank into a deep depression, then dementia. He died a few years later, having to be taken care of by the very children he raised to be as independent and fearless as he once was. In the end, he couldn't even understand his wife of 50+ years wasn't there because she had died more than a year before.
So, if they can do this to man who was so deeply respected both within his community and in the larger sociopolitical realm, what makes us think that it would be any harder for small, cowardly men to inflict the same suffering on helpless women who are seen as lower-order humans by their own communities?

"When I read stuff like this I feel happy to have been raised in America. REALLY happy."


Y'know, I was born and raised in America. Happy to've been, too. But don't for a second forget that what we enjoy today was built on pox-riddled blankets, massacred minorities, and lynched men. It wasn't too long ago that non-whites were systematically deemed inferior and unworthy of equality, much like the women from the article posted. It's only through eradication of ignorance that enlightenment prevails. Let's get to it.
posted by seldom seen cid at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2008 [9 favorites]


The solution to this problem is actually pretty basic.
posted by Eideteker at 10:00 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


My apologies for that bizarre stray comma at the beginning of the post. It was late.

Also, it's not something that anyone I know knew anything about pre-link, so I thought it was decently fair to say we don't know a whole lot about it. (YMMV)

Secondly, I read Shake Girl when it first appeared awhile ago, and it was the first thing I thought of when I saw this Op-Ed, so I wanted to connect them for anybody else who might have an interest in reading it.
posted by aliceinreality at 10:13 AM on December 8, 2008


The solution to this problem is actually pretty basic.

In a lot of ways this makes me madder then the actual action. Exploiting what is already a horrific act, solely for favorites on some web site.
posted by seagull.apollo at 10:21 AM on December 8, 2008


What we enjoy today was not built on any of that. What we enjoy today came about in spite of that. People suck. They do all sorts of horrible things, and sometimes they do them in the name of something greater. Nationhood, God, conquest, expansion, take your pick.

Ignorance, hatred, etc. will never be eradicated, not completely, but what we can do is drive it deep, deep underground where it will only pop up now and again to remind us that we still suck as a people and need to keep striving to do better.

We need to embrace hypocrisy and pretend all this stuff is horrible and no one should do it, and we, in fact, would never do such a thing. If we do, eventually our kids will buy it, and they will grow up not thinking that way. That is the real way we progress. It's called "do as I say and not as I do." People have a short memory and if you can just push the unpleasantness away long enough, the bar of what is acceptable does go up.

Look at sexism and racism. Sure, they definitely still exist, but if a politician today made a joke about women or another race, you bet it would be on YouTube and he'd be apologizing a-plenty. The change happens slow, but it happens. 20 years ago, such a joke wouldn't even have been noticed. 20 years from now, maybe the jokes won't even be a problem.

Also, I'm as culturally relativistic as the next guy, but that shit just isn't right and at some point, someone has to step in and say "hey cut that out." We might not have the right to do so, but really no one does. Eventually though, someone has to do something or it's just going to keep happening.
posted by BeReasonable at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2008


Lovely culture. Lovely. Why am I not surprised? Ranks right up there with those African nations that condone female circumcision.

We did away with the whole "women are inferior" thing years ago.


Can I come to your West, sirs? The West in which we are free of sexism not because spousal abuse and rape are illegal but because women are not beaten and raped? Where we are free of racism not because America has a black president but because all black children can expect as decent an education and future as their white peers?

One of the most disheartening aspects of Western oppression--and this goes for all those bad -isms--is that it allows incurious citizens the luxury of patting themselves on the back for not supporting clitoredectomies and acid-burning. Good on you, guys. By the way, we are still a nation of rape, reported and not, and of racism and poverty--but it's hidden under platitudes of being home of The Free and The Brave, and there are fewer photo galleries about our own moral turpitude splashed on Newsweek and National Geographic. Those photos deny us the fun of congratulating each other on how evolved we are. Should I even bother pointing out that West is also the home of kiddie porn, and date rape drugs, crucified gay teenagers and the KKK, among millions of the quiet sins against humanity that go unpublished? Isn't that just terribly obvious to anyone who actually hangs out here? Just because our governments pay enthusiastic lip service to the myth of meritocracy, just because we can work ourselves in a self-righteous lather about clitoredectomies and acid burnings because they are portrayed as barbaric actions of an Other rather than the same iterations of globalized, systematic violence--that does not mean that we are part of a better world.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:29 AM on December 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


"The solution to this problem is actually pretty basic."

Eideteker is completely correct. But that's not to say the solution's easy. In fact, I'd say the problem's one of the most innate, instinctual human conditions: ignorance.
After all, here in the "West", we have instant access to information on the entirety of human history and knowledge. And yet, we still have people who're afraid of what they can't (or don't want to) understand. That's why we have misogynists, racists and religious zealots of all stripes. Here. In the "West".
posted by seldom seen cid at 10:33 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


In what sense to we "hear little" about this in the west? It seems to be one of the major talking points brought up all the time by people with an axe to grind against muslims/arabs.

Obviously, the OP's point is that people do not have enough axes to grind in this regard, nor do they spend enough time grinding them.

"In a lot of ways this makes me madder then the actual action. Exploiting what is already a horrific act, solely for favorites on some web site."

That's odd, I always thought the point of humor was to deal with frustrating, horrifying, and otherwise uncontrollable situations. I'd like to think that if I was trying to offend you, you'd know it. It's a defense mechanism, right? I'm sorry if I don't have a detailed 13-point plan to end this tragedy in our lifetimes. If it makes you feel better, I'll ask that no one favorite that comment.
posted by Eideteker at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2008


Vitriol.

You young people don't know what vitriol is, do you? It's concentrated sulphuric acid. Throwing vitriol used to be a pretty common crime in the west too. I'm pretty sure its decline is simply because that now there aren't small industrial workshops all over the place, it's not an easily accessible substance any more, and so abusive men have to resort to bats, knives, and guns.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:49 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Look at sexism and racism. Sure, they definitely still exist, but if a politician today made a joke about women or another race, you bet it would be on YouTube and he'd be apologizing a-plenty. The change happens slow, but it happens. 20 years ago, such a joke wouldn't even have been noticed. 20 years from now, maybe the jokes won't even be a problem.

Jokes aren't the problem, that is a smokescreen. We shouldn't pat ourselves on the back for eradicating offensive language through gotcha commentaries in the media, we should work harder to eradicate injustice where we find it. I for one don't want to live in a world where we can't laugh at or saterize ourselves. It's not the jokes that are hurtful it is the oppression that they symbolize that is the problem. Set us all on an even playing field and you can make all the jokes you want about my lack of rhythm or inability to dunk a basketball, you'll probably find me joining in.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:53 AM on December 8, 2008


Eideteker: Maybe we can just agree to disagree about what we think is funny. I'm not asking you to have a solution on my desk by Monday, I'm just questioning whether what you said needed to be said at all.
posted by seagull.apollo at 10:59 AM on December 8, 2008


Is the magnitude somehow higher than cases of sposal abuse in other parts of the world?

OK, look. I know we're all supposed to be very scientific about this, but I'm an American woman, and I do not need science to debunk the idea that American women as a group encounter anything even remotely close to having 7000 of us burned by acid because we won't dress conservatively, all in just two towns.

Yes, what happens to Western women is terrible -- we're marginalized in many careers, we tend to be treated as inferior to men, and our physical inequality means that many of us, if not most, will be beaten or raped by at least one man during our lifetimes. In fact, the sad truth is that some of us will die for the crime of being born female. Thus, the idea that we've "gotten past the 'women are inferior' thing" is indeed ridiculous. But women being burned by acid or set on fire? Not as some horrible, national-TV-coverage-for-weeks rarity, but as an everyday fact of life? Not so much. Hell, the vast, vast majority of us aren't even forced to marry, much less mutilated because we didn't want to go through with it. Please, let's not pretend that this is equivalent -- IMHO, it's more-or-less the same cultural problem, but its magnitude is really, really, REALLY not the same, nor is cultural acceptance of it, and that makes it very different indeed.

just because we can work ourselves in a self-righteous lather about clitoredectomies and acid burnings because they are portrayed as barbaric actions of an Other rather than the same iterations of globalized, systematic violence--that does not mean that we are part of a better world.

If you really want to say that "globalized, systematic violence" is bad, then it seems to me that you must conclude that the West, as violent and messed up as it is, is a lot less violent and messed up than many other places in the world, and thus "better" with regard to globalized, systematic violence. Yes, we're a deeply violent culture, and we need to admit that. However, honesty demands that we also admit that the average person here has no way of even comprehending what everyday violence means compared to the average person in parts of the Middle East and Africa. Personally, I strongly agree that we should consider the fire that's eating the bedroom in our own house before we run over to fight the three-alarm blaze next door, but asserting that there's no difference between the two is not honest, nor is it helpful.

Sorry, but for me, the whole "that does not mean that we are part of a better world" argument falls more than a little flat in the face of, you know, not being blinded by acid and then having to set myself on motherfucking fire to escape the pain and social shame.
posted by vorfeed at 11:05 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


You know, this is one of those situations where I have to ask, "What kind of person would do something like that?"

I'm not willing to just accept "religious wacko" as an explanation. A man who throws acid on a woman's face for violating some sort of community value HAS SOMETHING WRONG WITH HIM. As in psychopath. As in complete inability to empathize.

I'm serious. If someone here has deep insight into Muslim culture, I want them to explain this to me. How does a man throw acid on a woman and walk away thinking that he's a good man? How is it that bystanders see this and think, "Well, she had it coming!"

What thoughts run through these peoples heads?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:17 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


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