This is not the story of a helpless woman who fled from her country, Pakistan, because of accusations of adultery and attempts on her life. It’s not about how 65-year-old Jamila Bibi could not put her trust in the legal system in Pakistan.
This is the story of how even after she escaped certain, violent, retribution for allegedly committing adultery, her narrative was lost in the complexity of laws which first protected her and then threw her back to the wolves.
Jamila Bibi sought asylum in Canada in 2007 because her life was in danger after her husband accused her of adultery. She was deported to Pakistan on Tuesday because under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Jamila was not under any “obvious” threat back home.
Mutilating women, stoning them to death, or any number of methods of honour killings are nothing new in villages or even cities in Pakistan. According to Dr Muazzam Nasrullah, a public health specialist teaching at Emory and West Virginia University, US, “As many as 500 women and girls are killed for ‘honour’ in Pakistan each year, making it one of the most dangerous countries for women.”
Even though there are direct laws against honour killings, the figure keeps increasing every year. From suspecting an affair, seeking revenge for adultery, to handling property disputes by levelling false accusations, motives behind such deaths are plenty while the truth is seldom present.
In Jamila Bibi’s case, it was said to be a land dispute which led to accusations of adultery. Imagine a 65-year-old woman living in a village committing adultery? Isn’t it a bit of a stretch?
But let’s just consider for a second the accusations were true. Does she not have the right to be tried in a court of law? Does she not have the right to a second chance? A chance Canada did give her until this Tuesday, when they sealed her fate by deporting her.
Leaving behind threats to her life, Jamila Bibi used to work in the kitchen of a small restaurant in Saskatoon, and was contributing to the Canadian economy, however meagre the amount. She was safe, at peace and there legally. There are numerous illegal immigrants residing in Canada. And many should be dealt with harshly because of their dishonest claims and antics. Surely no one will mourn their deportation.
In hindsight, this decision of the government makes little sense, especially when both the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International had appealed for further review and consideration of her case before the final deportation.
There are many critics of the Harper government in Canada, primarily for his stringent laws on immigration. This incident further breathes fire into the opposition. But, Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander, continues to label the system as “fair and generous”.
Justice Marie-Josee Bedard said,
“The applicant has not presented evidence before this court that could support a finding that she will face risks if she is [relocated] to Pakistan that have not already been assessed on two occasions (by immigration officials).”
What evidence are they talking about? Did they expect Jamila Bibi to pull some strings even though they know she does not come from privilege back in her village? Or do they expect her accusers to now shower her with petals at the airport?
What makes this action of the Canadian government different from the numerous acts of brutality in Pakistan? We all nod our heads and shrug our shoulders when people like Jamila Bibi don’t get their rights in Pakistan, but what do we do when it comes to humanitarian establishments like Canada?
Is Canada to be held accountable if Jamila Bibi is killed in Pakistan, a country which has a continuing history of honour killings?
No one condones or justifies passing on the blame to a third-party. But in this case, Canada chose to get involved. Canada willingly gave Jamila Bibi refuge so now they cannot turn a deaf ear to her pleas. You can’t save a person from fire by drowning her in an ocean.
This is not a plea to let guilty people off the hook or to make undue exceptions in the law. However, her appeals should have been given more time and consideration. Was that too much to handle for the Canadian government?
In a letter to the UN, Jamila wrote:
“I know my life would be in danger if I am sent back and I would rather have a peaceful death here than be killed for something that I did not do.”
Who is to say she does not deserve a peaceful death?
**This was published on the Express Tribune blog.Some editing has been done by the tribune team.
A sad situation. There’s usually more going on behind the scenes.
1. You criticize the system of the country which has given you shelter and a living as well as security and scarcely have a word to say about the country you left because of all its ills.
2. You can better serve the cause you espouse (that of saving women such as Jamila) by going back to your homeland Pakistan and fighting for a fair legal system which does not discriminate on the basis of gender and religion.
Such a stereotyped/hackneyed comment. The writer is espousing a cause highlighting a perceived wrong. No where does it say one can’t criticize one’s adopted nation particularly when the view is educated and well informed. It is also not about going back or staying there! Wish the Pakistani community was more sensitive to one another than simply trying to appease by being “more loyal” to their adopted country. How can one forget one’s roots??
Very bad Situation in Pakistan, Though i am a Pakistani, but things are getting hard as there is no justice, harmony, tolerance and merit, the things that prevails in Pakistan are Bribery, injustice, demerit, Nepotism and other malpractice, Sorry to say, this is not the Pakistan which Muhammad Ali Jinnah Promised with the people of Indo-Subcontinent. Everyone is trying to fly from country even including me as there we are not getting our rights.
I know what you mean. It is all very distressing, but as long as people are willing to come out and strive for change, whether in their workplaces, homes or for the overall system. We should try to change helpless to hopeful. Hopeful Pakistani.
Pakistan needs to solve its problems on its own and tackle anti-women atrocities at home so no Jamila Bibi can be shoved around like a parcel from Pakistan to Canada and elsewhere.
Besides, Canada or any western country cant be expected to provide refuge to all Pakistani women or can they??
Your point is valid and cannot be denied. However the problem highlighted here was specifically how Canada gave bibi refuge in the first place. Yes Canada doesn’t have to nor does it give refuge to every troubled Pakistani women. No one expects it to. But after offering a helping hand you can’t just step back without sufficient grounds. That is the point here and also how many illegal immigrants still live here without being sent back.
Immigration is a really dirty business and I say this because I have been involved into a trafficking project from Pakistan to EU and elsewhere.
And yes, I understand what you mean, however this is something what Canada and most western countries do, they give a hand for period unspecified and then snatch it back.
The illegal immigration serves very well Westerners despite their tall and noble claims – illegals are commodities that serve traffickers and societies in which they go.
Nida, I am saying this because I have met countless illegal immigrants in my line of work & also recorded/observed with my eyes their slave like labors in Spain, Libya, and other places.
Do you know that under-age/ illegal migrant Pakistani girls are serving in brothel houses and desperate poverty struck men and young boys/ illegal migrants are working in european agricultural lands for 2 euros a day?
As a Pakistani it breaks my heart and boils my blood, but we need all we can do to help Pakistan come out of this state of madness.
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you are spot on. And since your work revolves around this issue you surely offer a valuable insight here. I saw a documentary once about human trafficking but I can’t imagine everything that you must have witnessed in your work. Fortunately there are still good people left like you who make an effort to help the distressed.
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You should also count yourself and the goodness within you into these efforts.
Its terrible but real and at the end of the day very very heart breaking to see people bring treated like goods. But we must go on, humanity and sanity have to prevail.
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And why none of her other family members in Pakistan give her refuge or support her in this whole event?
She ran away on the grounds that her family had falsely accused her of adultery and was consequently sent to jail. Her husband’s side of the family was distorting facts to obtain her meagre property. You can get all details when you research online.
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Throwing women inside jails on false charges of adultery is something not new in Islamic state of Pakistan, its funny how Islamic Shariah law is a tool to abuse and oppress women here.
I am extremely appalled at this sort of anti-women problems with our country, recently I had the opportunity to visit Central Jail in women’s section where I found that thousands of women are rusting away on these false charges of adultery for some reason, or other including property.
I was appalled to meet a woman who gave birth to a girl inside that jail and can you imagine the little baby girl hasn’t ever seen anything apart the jail cells.
Now coming back to Jamila Bibi, I find it appalling that her own parents/siblings never stood up for her, yes I have googled and read the details, thanks a lot for highlighting Jamila Bibi’s at your blog, I also suggest that you could do some more posts focusing on property and inheritance rights problems faced by Pakistani women. All such crap in the name of Islam, when reality is that our culture continues to stay in dark ages where we women are no better then cattle.
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I wish we have more committed people like you. And yes Nida I also wish that you devote more time and space to highlighting the problems being faced by women in Pakistan – and in Canada as well