FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AHRC-STM-012-2009 January 12, 2009
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Young women held in military torture cells and forced into sexual slavery
Ms. Zarina Marri, a 23-year-old schoolteacher from Balochistan province, was arrested in late 2005, and has been held incommunicado in an army torture cell at Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. She has been repeatedly raped by the military officers and is being used as a sex slave, to induce arrested nationalist activists to sign state-concocted confessions.
One man, who was arrested by a state agency and kept in military torture cell almost for nine months, narrated the story of this young woman to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF); nowpublic.com; the International Red Cross; and at Woolwich Court in London. The current whereabouts of the young woman are not known. It has been asserted that women who are fighting for the greater autonomy of Balochistan are being arrested by the state agencies and being forced into sex slavery in their custody.
Mr. Munir Mengal, the managing director of a Balochi-language television channel, was arrested on April 4, 2006 from Karachi International airport by the state intelligence agencies and transferred to a military torture cell in Karachi for nine months (http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1666/). He narrated the story of the forced sex slavery of the young teacher Zarina Marri whom he encountered in a military cell. According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Mr. Munir Mengal witnessed many human rights violations in this military prison. Mengal says that, "a young Balochi woman, Ms. Zarina Marri, was used as a sexual slave by the officers. They even once threw her naked into my cell. I did not know what had happened to this mother of a family who was arrested by the army in our province."
Another Balochi nationalist (name omitted by request), who was arrested by the military intelligence agency twice and kept in military cells in different cities, has confirmed to the AHRC that there were young Balochi females seen at those two torture cells, naked and in distress. The prominent Balochi nationalist leaders say that they know fact that young Balochi women are being arrested, either during or after protest demonstrations on the disappearances and are missing. They also know about the women are sexually abused in the military custody but they cannot say so publically because of their sanctity and harassment of their families.
Mr. Munir Mengal was also tortured and his penis was severely injured when he refused to have sex with Zarina Marri. He told RSF, "on 27th January, 2007 at 6 pm Major Iqrar Gul Niazi (Military Intelligence) called me in his office and showed me some nude pictures, and laughingly told me that you have been a director of a TV channel so certainly you have good relations with actresses."
When he returned to his cell he found porn pictures strewn all over it. Around 12 pm a low-ranking military officer called Subedar brought a female there. She was trembling and weeping. "He threw her on my body and told me, 'You know what to do with her. You are not a child we have to tell what to do with her.'" Mr. Mengal says after half an hour the officer returned, and seeing them sitting apart, abused them and forcibly took off their clothes. Mengal said he was stunned when the woman began praying in the Balochi language. She told Mengal her name was Zarina Marri and that she belongs to the Kohlu area, headquarters of the rebel Marri tribe, a scene of a bloody insurgency that begun in 2005. She said she was a schoolteacher and that the army personnel had abducted her along with her one-year-old.
"They accuse us for spying for the Baluchistan Liberation Army," Zarina Marri said. She begged Mengal to kill her. "I have been undressed several times for them."
Mengal said on the refusal to have sex, the intelligence officials inflicted cuts on his private parts. "I thought I would lose my manhood," he said. Ms. Zarina told to Mengal that she has seen some females in the torture cell but was not allowed to talk with them.
At the time of this incident Colonel Raza of the Pakistani Army was in charge of that cell. After a few days he was transferred to Rawalpindi, Punjab province and Colonel Abdul Malik Kashmiri came as head of the military torture cell.
Mr. Munir Mengal was released from the military torture cell on 4th August 2007 and was held in a civilian jail on August 5th. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) representatives met him in Khuzadar jail, where he provided them with a detailed briefing which they wrote down. The next day their doctor also checked the injured portion of his penis. Mr. Andrew Barterlays, the officer of ICRC who visited Mr. Mengal several times in jail, told Mr. Mengal that until he was out of custody the ICRC could not take up the issue of Zarina Marri, because both their lives would be threatened.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has already reported that 52 torture cells are run by the Pakistan army, please see following link (http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2008statements/1574/), Karachi was stated to have three military torture cells. The testimony by Mr. Munir Mengal has revealed the most heinous methods of army torture, using young women as sex slaves to induce political opponents to sign the government-concocted confessions of terrorist and anti-state activity.
The AHRC severely condemns the use of women as sex slaves by the Pakistan army and for keeping these women incommunicado. Pakistan is the signatory to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) but women are being used as sex slaves in a gross violation of the Convention by army officers.
The AHRC urges the government of Pakistan to immediately hold a judicial investigation into the women detainees being used as sex slaves by the army officers in their detention centers, and to arrest all the army officers posted in the torture cells; both in Karachi and in the rest of Pakistan. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes must be brought before the law. The government should ascertain the whereabouts of the women arrested from Balochistan province who have disappeared after their arrest, including Zarina Marri. It is the duty of the government to search for the missing persons taken by State intelligence agencies, who have held them in torture cells for many years.
Pakistan proudly calls itself the Islamic Democratic State but its rulers appear to lack the courage to bring its own military into check. It is a military that engages in torture and some of the most heinous methods of breaking the spirit of those that it considers the enemy, it is a military that pays no heed to the norms of civilised behaviour and is one that, if not brought to book will convert Pakistan into a barbaric state.
# # # About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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