Taking for Granted the Freedoms Denied to Others

I can’t help but wonder if we as a society take our lives and the freedoms we enjoy every day for granted.

Do we even fully realize the phenomenal freedoms that we exercise every waking minute?

I submit that it isn’t an issue we spend much time probing because we have become accustomed to the absolute freedom to control our lives; because of the fact that we have the freedom of protected liberty, and possess the freedom to pursue our happiness in whatever we choose.

Despite all the bad things that we read about in our papers every day, we actually do have a wonderful life.

However, not everyone in this great big world is as lucky as Americans are. Imagine, if you will, that you or a close friend has just been brutally raped.

Now banish from your mind the immediate available medical, victim, legal and psychological services that are available in the United States.

Next, banish from your mind the fact that the law enforcement agencies in the United States will go after the rapist, who, if caught, will then face legal punishments.

Now imagine that once it becomes known you or your close friend has been raped, the law pursues the victim.

Imagine you, the victim, is then killed for shaming your family’s honor.

A woman is raped, then is killed; what could possibly be the rationale behind this abhorrent and chilling action?

In many Middle Eastern countries, “”honor killing”” is the age-old practice of killing women who have shamed the family name by committing adultery, not marrying the bridegroom chosen by her parents, having premarital sex and even for being raped.

Even the merest suspicion of sexual activity can warrant a woman’s death in the name of “”family honor.””

The worst of it is that the killings often remain a private family matter and usually the murderer is considered innocent and even a “”hero,”” often allowed to walk free without any punishment.

The first thought you might have is that this obviously cannot be true — that it must be an ancient custom that is no longer in practice. Sadly, this practice is very much a reality.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report on the state of human rights in their country, it was reported that around 1,000 women were victims of “”honor killings”” in 1999.

In the August 1999 report, the Human Rights Watch condemned the “”honor killings”” that take place in Jordan.

This international monitoring group cited the killing of 11 women 1999 (through August), in the name of “”family honor,”” and criticized Jordan’s government for allowing the perpetrators to go free.

Yet “”honor killings”” are not limited to Middle Eastern countries. They also continue in Turkey, considered a Mediterranean European country.

The Middle East Times International Edition reported on April 27, 1998, a teenager’s throat was slit in the town square of the region of Sanliurfa because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio. Though “”honor killings”” are a crime under Turkish law, this girl was punished according to a tradition, which decrees that a family tarnished by an unchaste daughter can redeem its honor only by her death.

Now imagine that you are married, but have taken a lover. Imagine you have just been convicted of adultery. If you are a woman in Afghanistan or Iran, there is no doubting what your punishment will be: death by stoning.

As reported by the Associated Press wire service May 1, 2000, a recent example of this practice was when Afghanistan’s hard-line Taliban religious leaders stoned a woman named Suriya to death after she was convicted of adultery. The stoning was conducted in a dramatic public display at a sports stadium before a crowd of several thousand spectators.

In Iran, the Law of Hodoud specifically states how a stoning must take place. Married offenders who commit adultery may be punished by stoning regardless of their gender, but the method laid down for a man involves his burial up to his waist, and for a woman up to her neck (Article 102).

Article 104 of the Law of Hodoud provides that the stones should not be so large that a person dies after being hit with two of them, nor so small as to be defined as pebbles, but must cause severe injury.

This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict grievous pain on the victim, in a process leading to his or her slow death.

Though the Iranian law requires stoning death for either male or female offenders, the majority of the cases involving stonings involve women.

Amnesty International reported July 14, 1995, that two women by the names Saba Abdali, 30, and Zeinab Heidary, 38, were stoned in the city of Ilam Gharb of Iran after being accused of committing adultery.

In another horrifying case, Reuters reported Dec. 7, 1994, that a married woman was stoned to death in the city of Ramhormouz, in southwestern Iran.

These brutal cases illustrate the fact that the women in these countries do not have the rights to life, to liberty, or to pursue their happiness — the very rights we take for granted in the course of our daily life.

It is simply beyond my capacity to be able to imagine how it would be possible to live in a country in which I would be killed by my own family members if I were raped or fell in love with the wrong boy.

These harsh and inherently unjust actions by these countries only serve to reinforce my belief in how lucky I am to be living in the “”grand ol'”” United States. It makes me aware that every day I truly do breathe in the air of freedom.

Our constitutional gifts of freedom protect us from each other and from our government. In our remarkable society, victims have the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and above all, are protected from further victimization.

Thus, with each day, remember that we have been blessed with a exceptionally wonderful life. For we enjoy something many other countries only dream about: freedom.

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