Friday, February 4, 2011

Beaten to death in Bangladesh

Imagine being brought before a religious council because you broke one of the Ten Commandments. You have no right to an attorney because it's not a formal legal proceeding. The only think you can do is plead for mercy. Your knees buckle when the head of the council announces you will be publicly lashed for your sin.

Nevermind if what you're accused of isn't a crime. If it's proscribed in the Bible, the Torah, the Quoran or any other religious tome, it's fair game for the religious council.
"What sort of justice is this? My daughter has been beaten to death in the name of justice. If it had been a proper court then my daughter would not have die." -- Dorbesh Khan, the father of Hena Begum
Hena Begum, 14, was alleged to have had an affair with her cousin, a married man, in Bangladesh. Village clerics issued the fatwa, or religious ruling, that Ms. Begum was to receive 80 lashes for violating Sharia law. After the lashing, Ms. Begum was admitted to a hospital for treatment of her injuries where she died six days later.

Last year another woman, Sufia Begum, was sentenced to 40 lashes for committing adultery. The 40-year-old woman died almost a month later after she was admitted to a hospital a week after the beating.
"Her body was swollen and I couldn't even recognise her." -- Taimur Rahman, Ms Begum's brother
Both of these incidents have taken place since the government of Bangladesh outlawed the practice of fatwas in early 2010. It is likely these incidents would never have made news outside of Bangladesh but for the deaths of the women. While these women died, how many others were beaten by religious officials for sinning? How many other religious councils openly flaunt the law in Bangladesh by issuing illegal fatwas?

Police have arrested six people in connection with the two deaths. No word on whether the men involved in the affairs were punished.

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