06/17/2005 08:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Save Mukhtaran Bibi

As Batman and Darth Vader fill the summer screens in our America, a young and frightened woman from a village in rural Pakistan is showing the world the true meaning of courage – and giving us all a lesson in the real price of freedom.

Mukhtaran Bibi is my hero, and she should be yours.

is a small, willful package of courage and steel unbroken in the face of group torture and violence by the weak-souled, God-hating cowards who would make her a victim. But Victim is a label Mukhtaran Bibi refuses to accept. As those of you who read Nick Kristoff’s column in the New York Times know, Mukhtar Mai (as she is also known) was a victim of a gang rape, locally sanctioned by tribal elders as a feudal punishment for a crime supposedly committed by her brother.

mukhtar.jpgShe was expected to kill herself, under the ancient honor system of the village. Instead, she pressed charges and the men were convicted. Taking the small amount of government compensation she received, Mukhtaran Bibi chose to open a school – and opened it to the children of her attackers.

To many, she has become an international symbol of courage and modernity, a non-violent warrior fighting (and winning) an important battle for freedom in a region beset by feudal custom, violence, and religious hatred. But to the government of President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, our so-called ally in the war on terror, Mukhtaran Bibi was a threat: a living symbol of a society that lacks civility and democracy under his regime, and another subtle reminder that Musharraf’s Pakistan is the home of Osama bin Laden.

And so, when a human rights group planned to bring Mukhtaran Bibi to the United States for a speaking tour, Musharraf’s government pounced, placing her on the restrictive do not travel list and eventually forcing her to rescind her request for a U.S. visa and confiscating her passport. Kristoff sounded the alarm and the blogosphere responded – big-time.

Since Wednesday, more than 80 bloggers – bigshots and small fry alike – have posted articles on Mukhtar Mai’s plight. Many have written to Congress, the Administration, and to the Pakistani embassy in Washington. Amnesty International got involved. CNN did a piece. The State Department protested to the Pakistani government. The travel restrictions were lifted – or so it seemed for a few hours; later, we learned that her passport had been taken.

Word continues to spread, amazing proof that committed people sitting behind keyboards all over the world can actually make a major difference. We need to do more. We need to create a louder, more intrusive, more annoying racket. We need the President and Secretary of State to speak. So please join the cause. Every blog helps. It really does.

Updates and Resources:

I'm maintaining a list of participating bloggers here.

Here's the working Technorati tag.

These are the non-profit aid organizations working with Mukhtar Mai:



This is Kristoff's bulletin board at the NYT.

Here is Mukhtar Mai's own Website (maintained by friends).

Write to this man:

His Excellency Mr. Jehangir Karamat

Donations can be sent here:

Mercy Corps
Mukhtaran Bibi Fund
Dept. W
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208-2669

RALLY! The ANAA, which had sponsored Mukhtar Mai's trip, has organized two protest meetings this coming week in New York and in Washington, DC. I will try to attend the New York conference. Please turn out and pass this along. Here is the info:


Date: Wednesday, 22nd June 2005
Time: 10:30-12:30 PM
Location: 65th Street, Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10021
Directions by subway: Take the N/R train to Fifth Ave.
Open to Public. Please bring your friends.

2. WASHINGTON DC Protest Rally:

Date: Thursday, 23rd June 2005
3517 International Court, NW
Washington DC, 20008
Open to Public. Please bring your friends.