Victim apprehends attack after court orders release of her rapists

Associated Press

Multan, March 5:

A woman who drew international attention after being gang-raped in Pakistan in a retaliatory “honour” attack said today she is fearful after several of the alleged perpetrators were ordered released from prison. Mukhtar Mai’s story broke in June 2002 after she was raped by four men on the orders of a village council that wanted to punish her family. The assault was ordered after Mai’s brother allegedly had sex with a woman from a more prominent family. Mai’s story captured global attention and prompted President Pervez Musharraf to order the suspects arrested. Within days six men, including the village council’s head and another member, were behind bars. A judge found them guilty and sentenced them to death. However, yesterday an appeal court in Multan ordered five of the men released due to lack of evidence. The sixth had his death sentence reduced to life in prison.

While the five have yet to be released, Mai said she won’t be safe in her village of Meerwala where the crime took place. “I fear that those who were awarded death sentences can take any step after their release,” a tearful Mai said, urging the government to protect her. Mai, a 33-year-old school teacher, said she would not leave her village and vowed to appeal the court’s decision. “I will fight a legal battle to death. I want all those people who molested me hanged.” Mai is from Gujar clan, while the attackers were from Mastoi clan, considered socially higher.

She denied that her 13-year-old brother, Abdul Shakoor, had relations with the Mastoi woman, saying the clan fabricated the story to cover up another incident in which Mastoi men allegedly sexually abused her brother. Mai said she cannot forget what happened on June 22, 2002, when they came to her house and accused Shakoor. Hours later, a village council summoned her father. “I was worried about my brother, so I went there to see the proceedings,” she said. “My father was defending Shakoor when a man caught me and started taking me to a house. I cried and asked for help. Some armed men caught my father. Later, four men took turns to rape me, and then threw me out of that house.”

She said she would never forgive the people who saw her being dragged away, but did nothing to help. “I heard laughter, and weeping there helplessly was only one man — my father.” Mai also said today she had asked her lawyer to challenge the latest verdict in the Supreme Court. “My case is not only in Pakistani court, but also in the court of God. I hope the Supreme Court of Pakistan will give me justice.”