We will kill you if you go to school

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 28, 2008

Among some groups of ‘Western’ feminists, perhaps especially within academia, there is a reluctance to draw attention to extreme instances of human rights violations in ‘non-western’ countries, especially in (predominantly) Muslim countries. The argument behind this position is that by highlighting the oppressions of women by some Muslim leaders or groups, one is playing into the card of Islamophobia, and contributing to the polarising rhetoric of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Some also argue that Western feminists should focus on unjust global economic and political structures for which Western governments bear responsibilities, rather than on local sources of oppression in non-western societies.

I think such concerns are in many instances justified. Nevertheless from time to time I am struck by the intensity of the violence against women and girls by some groups or leaders in the world (and clearly this is by no means just a Muslim issue). Moreover, it would be hard to deny that it is of a different order than the disadvantages or hampering social structures experienced by mainstream groups of women in Europe or North America.

Take the latest one from the Taliban: “they have warned”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7799926.stm that in North-West Pakistan they will kill all girls who still go to school on January 15th, and that they will blow up schools who will enrol female students after that date. Now one would hope they wouldn’t have the capacity to execute such a threat, yet surely they will be able to kill some girls, just as they’ve killed so many other targets. It is just very sad that these things continue to happen when we are entering 2009. It reached the newspapers and the 8 o’clock news here in the Netherlands – but then, what else is going to happen now? As far as I can tell nothing much – except what must be a terrible decision to be made by these girls and their parents.