in search of al qaeda
homethe journeyinside the tribal areasground zero: pakistandiscussion
producers' dispatches from the front


+ "The Plight of Women"

from Marcela Gaviria

click here for a larger map "Man Poisons Wife to Death" ... "Two Women Raped, Killed in Separate Incidents" ... "Girl Gang Raped in Bahawalpur" ... "Pregnant Woman Killed by Rivals in Muridke" ... "Girl Disgraced at Basti Hassanabad" ... "Woman Abducted in Pakpatan."

These are a few of the headlines buried in just one day's edition of The News, a local English-language newspaper.

I learn that Salma was raped while working in the cotton fields and was killed with a sickle by the man who wished to conceal his crime. I read that Zaka Ulla's eight-month marriage ended (in death) after her husband forced her to drink rat poison. I am horrified to learn that Zahida Parveen was gang raped by a group of 10 men on some small road and has now been forced to leave her hometown and her family because she has disgraced them.

There is a disconnect between what I am told and what I read. I am told that women are sacred -- revered as precious objects -- that must be kept away from public sight to preserve their honor and dignity. And yet, day after day, there is the barrage of 3x3-inch stories that tell tales of invisible girls suffering unspeakable crimes.

I have not been able to speak to any women on this trip. Sometimes I'll see a beautiful henna-died hand slip through the door and pass a tray full of tea to a man on the receiving end. Sometimes I'll hear the chatter and banter of women sitting in the back room. I wonder how they pass their days and if they ever see the sunlight.

I am told that you can tell a lot about a woman, even if she is covered by a burka. You will know if she is married or single by the way she walks. You will know if she is beautiful or ugly by the way she holds her shoulders. You will know if she is wealthy or poor by the way she smells or by the quality of her shoes.

One of the few times I've seen women up close was at the High Tea Hungama event at the Serena Hotel: Earl Grey and scones, to the high-pitched tune of Celine Dion's theme from Titanic and the Macarena in Urdu.

Groups of wealthy women come in the afternoons to catch up and get out of the house. They serve themselves piles of "sweets" in little plates and spend their time looking at other women sitting at other tables. When someone walks into the room, everybody's head turns to check out what the lady is wearing and who she is with. Sometimes a young bride will come with her husband. She is invariably holding Jasmine flowers in one hand. All the teenage girls seem enraptured. I imagine they wonder when their time will come to marry.

The cultural, social, and gender gap is too large to comprehend.

< previous dispatch  +  next dispatch >

(Aug. 13-14)

Zubaydah Is Dead
13 August, London

Armchair Jihadists
14 August, London

Gulf of Oman
(Aug. 15-21)

Faces at a Dubai Mall
15 August, Dubai, U.A.E.

HMCS Algonquin
16 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

On Board the Algonquin
17-18 August, somewhere in the Gulf of Oman

Like an Elephant Chasing a Mouse
17-18 August, Gulf of Oman

Dubai to Karachi
20 August

A Firehose of Information
20-21 August, Dubai - Muscat - Chennai

(Aug. 22-29)

Old Hash
22 August, Islamabad

Nuclear Neighbors
22-23 August, Islamabad

We Believe in God
24 August, Islamabad

Paranoid in Peshawar
27 August, Peshawar

Bombs or Dust Devils
27-28 August, Peshawar

Rumors and Half Truths
28 August, Peshawar

Pakistan Border Lands
(Aug. 30-Sept. 4)

On the Road to Chitral
30 August, Dir Khas

Prisoners' Dilemma
31 August, Dir

In the Northwest Frontier
30-31 August, Dir

Border Town
2 September, Chitral to Arandu

Don't Go to Timargarha
1-2 September, Drosh to Timargarha

An American Informer
3-4 September, Peshawar

(Sept. 5-23)

Road to Nowhere
7 September, Islamabad to Faisalabad

Faisal Town
7 September, Faisalabad

9 September, Faisalabad

+ The Plight of Women
10 September, Faisalabad

A Little Noticed Gun Battle
10-13 September, Lahore-Karachi

The Madrassa
14 September, Akora Khattak

The Next Big Get
20 September, Karachi - Islamabad

A Circle of Trust
21 September, Islamabad

23 September, Islamabad

Saudi Arabia
(Sept. 24-Oct. 2)

Inside the Kingdom
24-25 September, Riyadh

My Baffling Question
27 September, Unizah-Buraydah

An Obedient Dissident
27 September, Buraydah

An Audience with the Crown Prince
2 October, Riyadh

(Sept. 25-Oct. 10)

Arriving in Yemen
25-26 September, Sana'a

The Wedding Party
27 September, Sana'a

A Talking Drug
28 September, Sana'a

The World's Most Ancient Skyscrapers
3 October, Sana'a

Americans Are Vampires
7 October, Sana'a

Waiting for Rahma
9 October, Sana'a

home - introduction - mapping the journey
inside the tribal areas - ground zero: pakistan
discussion - interviews - producers' dispatches - readings & links
producers' chat - teachers' guide - tapes & transcripts - press reaction - credits - privacy policy
FRONTLINE - wgbh - pbs

photograph ©afp/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation