Five women from a remote Pakistani village were buried alive in July, according to a recent report by the Hong-Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission. The murders took place 300 kilometers from the provincial capital of Baluchistan. Three of the five, all teenagers, wanted to marry men of their own choice, but tribal elders refused permission. The women then sought permission at a civil court. Allegedly behind the deaths was the brother of a provincial minister. The Pakistani government has opened an inquiry, and several people have been arrested.
The A.H.R.C. said that the Baluchistan minister’s brother and six accomplices abducted the five women. In an isolated spot they forced the three younger women from the vehicle, beat and shot them and then threw them, still alive, into a ditch and covered them with earth. Two female relatives tried to intervene, but they too were buried alive. The minister denied his or his brother’s involvement, acknowledging only that three women had been killed by unknown assailants.
According to the A.H.R.C., hundreds of Pakistani women die yearly in often unreported honor killings, and it reports that honor killings have increased “parallel to the rise in the awareness of [women’s] rights.” Even when prosecuted, perpetrators are frequently guaranteed impunity. The U.N. Population Fund estimates the number of honor killings at 5,000 annually. The murders of the five women in Pakistan may be only the tip of the global iceberg.The Real Crooks
When Homeland Security agents raided a slaughterhouse run by Agriprocessors Inc. in Iowa last May, authorities arrested 389 suspected illegal immigrants. The dramatic raid included hundreds of agents, and over 300 detainees were held for hours in a cattle exhibition hall before being charged. Worker’s rights advocates also pointed out that while arrests of undocumented workers in the United States have risen 1,000 percent in the past six years, to almost 5,000, few company owners have been arrested for hiring undocumented workers.
Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest producer of kosher beef, was in the news again recently. Employees at a small Agriprocessors plant in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been trying for three years to unionize, with Agriprocessors fighting them every step of the way, claiming that because the employees were illegal immigrants, the company was not obligated to recognize them as workers under the National Labor Relations Act. Agriprocessors has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit a 1984 decision that recognized the right of illegal immigrants to join unions by declaring that such workers “plainly come within the broad statutory definition of ‘employee’.”
A new low in the sorry national tale of the exploitation of illegal immigrants, the case does offer some hope: the sheer hypocrisy of employers hiring illegally but then denying basic rights to their workers is now becoming a matter of public record. Perhaps the next federal raid might result in the arrest of a few unscrupulous owners.Downward Spiral in Zimbabwe
“For all practical purposes, every sector of daily Zimbabwean life—employment, education, the culture and economy, transportation, healthcare, farming, business, nutrition, availability of basic goods, services (power and water), and cash, and the spirit of the people—continues in severe decline. Most people toil on to adjust and to make do; unfortunately, though, some also are falling by the wayside and, often hidden from view, are not surviving.” Thus writes an America correspondent from Harare.
Many Zimbabweans are said to be slowly resigning themselves to the prospect of another five years under President Robert Mugabe’s rule as power-sharing talks that began on July 21 between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition continue on and off. A preliminary agreement was that Mr. Mugabe would remain president, and opposition leader Mr. Tsvangirai would be prime minister. Talks broke down, however, over issues of who controls what, who appoints whom and how power would be shared. In the words of Mr. Tsvangirai, “No deal is better than a bad deal.”
The African Union, relying upon the feeble mediating efforts of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, seems to be turning its back on the failed state of Zimbabwe. Cries from the United Nations are ignored. The message of the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe in mid-August remains unheeded.
All of this plays into the hands and pockets of President Mugabe as he continues in power. He convened parliament, a decision that went against the agreement of the two parties, and he threatened to appoint cabinet ministers if no settlement was reached.
The option of a people’s revolution seems remote, with President Mugabe and the military still in control. Unless African leaders step up pressure on Mugabe, he will continue as president; and the voice of the opposition, the voice of the majority of the people, will again be silenced.