Thursday 16 April 2009

Creepy people: Part IX

The world is full of really creepy people. This is Part IX of a series on creepy people. Admittedly, there are times when all of us do something we later conclude was a bit creepy but some people are creeps all their lives and sometimes their creepy acts are horrific. What follows are the actions of some really creepy people---the kind your mother told you to stay away from.

Rakimuddin, who like many young men in Bangledesh who uses only one name, had become obsessed with a young woman in his village but she was married so she turned him away. He took his revenge on her by throwing sulfuric acid in her face to erase the beauty that had previously enchanted him. Her cheeks melted. Her right eye was blinded and hollowed like a crater. The attacker was then arrested. The elders of the village decided to hold a shaleesh; or informal court to mediate between the parties as is the tradition. The uncle of the acid-thrower was willing to pay the victim's family a reasonable sum to atone for the wrong and buy his nephew's freedom. Some of the elders of the village who had seen the horrible disfigurement thought $10,000 was a proper settlement. But others wondered aloud: Had his crime been a crime of wild passion. A man's emotions don’t go so wild unless a woman has done something improper to him? To them, $1,000 seemed enough. In Bangladesh, such stories have become plentiful. The young woman’s husband, Afsaruddin, 38, had been forced to bribe prosecutors before they would pursue the case. Medical bills had already left the family destitute. He and his brothers had to sell off their legacy, a parcel of land. The village elders finally agreed on appropriate reparations to the victim and her family: $3,000.

In that backward country, in the 12 months from March 1998 to March 1999, as many as 174 acid attacks were reported in that country. Most often, the culprit was a spurned suitor. Most attackers were never arrested; most of the arrested were never tried. Survivors are left not only with their injuries; they are subjected to addiional torments. For example, one young victim was forced by her parents to marry her attacker, solving the urgent matter of who would support a woman unwanted as a bride. Another was forbidden to come home until she allowed her husband to take a second wife. This is what you can expect in villages in Bangladesh.

Piara Rai, 68, a Toronto father tried to stab his daughter, Amarpardeep Kaur Rai, 24, to death after she turned her back on an arranged marriage to her cousin and instead she married her secret love. She had gone home to rural Punjab, India, to visit her brothers in September 1999. After she arrived, her brothers took away her passport and said that she had to marry her first cousin or never go back to Toronto. She was forced into a marriage ceremony with her cousin. The wedding had been previously arranged behind her back in a scam by the family to get the man into Canada. The sole purpose of the family was to ensure that the cousin could be legally sponsored to remain in Canada. The marriage was never consummated, meaning that they didn’t have sex together. She came back to Toronto soon afterwards. In March 2000 she went back to India and quietly married her secret boyfriend. She then returned to Toronto and after her father found out what she had done, he pounced on her with a knife and began stabbing her. Amarpardeep suffered stab wounds to her neck and forehead and was covered with blood when she escaped by leaping from an 11-floor balcony to the apartment below. According to her family, she had disappointed her family by aborting their plans and marrying another young man without their permission. The plan to sponsor the cousin illegally had failed and her father became very upset and that is why he tried to kill her.

On December 30, 2007, Indian police arrested four men, including one from Surrey, British Columbia and charged them with conspiracy to murder the father of a young bride in Ludhiana, Punjab. They also issued arrest warrants for the woman's husband and his cousin, who live in Surrey. Police charges were that the husband and his cousin hired a group of contract killers for 120,000 rupees (about $3,000) after the father of the bride could not raise the dowry for his daughter. According to the Indian police, the bride, Pawanjot Kaur, who came to Canada to find her husband but came without the $75,000 dowry. When she couldn’t find him, she went to live with her grandfather in Edmonton. She and her husband were married in 2004 but she was told that she could not go to Canada until the dowry was settled. By going to Canada without the dowry, she had disobeyed them.

The police reports in the alleged dowry-related murder conspiracy identified the four arrested men as Ramandeep Singh, alias Rimpy, of Surrey and three alleged contract killers -- Sunil Kumar, alias Moni, Kulwant Singh, alias Kanta, and Jaskaran Singh, alias Jassi. Police say they arrested the four while they were on their way to Mundiya village outside the industrial city of Ludhiana, where the bride's family lived. The conspiracy to kill was allegedly hatched in Canada. The police were tipped off to the plot by a man who overheard the four suspects allegedly planning the murder at a roadside restaurant. The suspects were accused of planning to kill Pawanjot's father, Ranphul Singh. Preliminary investigations suggested that Ramandeep Singh was sent from Surrey to oversee the operation after the hired killers in India failed in an earlier attempt.

Dowries --- normally in cash, jewelry or land --- are gifts a woman brings to her husband in marriage. It is an ancestral custom officially that has been abolished in India for many years, but one that prevails in practice and is considered a sacred duty of the father. While there is no suggestion of the involvement of the in-laws in this case, on average, Indian police record one case an hour of brides being violently ill-treated by their in-laws for failure to deliver dowry. The practice of giving dowry, widely acknowledged as a social evil in India, led to the murder or suicide of 7,618 women in India in 2006, according to official statistics.

An Israeli Arab man was sentenced on March 5, 2008 to 16 years in prison in the ‘honour killing’ of his sister, Hamda Abu Ghanem. These kinds of killings refer to the murders of women by relatives for allegedly sullying the family name, sometimes for sexual activities committed by the victims. She was shot in January 2007 as she slept at her parents' home in a Muslim neighbourhood of Ramla, a Jewish-Arab town of 65,000 in central Israel. Incriminating evidence against the brother, Kamil Abu Ghanem, came from an aunt who said she saw him enter the family home, heard shots and then saw him flee the area. Female relatives took the rare step of testifying against him. His mother and another sister testified against him.

The clan is well known in Ramla. One cousin, Reem, was drugged by a brother and thrown in a well after refusing to marry a man her family chose. Reem's mother, Nayfa, was stabbed to death. Another woman ‘slipped’ in the bath and died. Others were gunned down or stabbed to death. Hamda Abu Ghanem was the ninth woman in that area killed in recent years by male family members.

An Italian woman whose family kept her locked in a room for almost two decades after she became pregnant out of wedlock was freed by police on June 13, 2008. Police said they found the 47-year-old woman in a filthy room in the family's home near Naples. The woman was then hospitalized in the psychiatric ward of a Naples hospital. Authorities arrested the woman's brother, a farmhand, and her sister, who worked in a nursery school, and put her 80-year-old mother under house arrest. The three were being investigated on suspicion of mistreatment and kidnapping. The Carabinieri paramilitary police said the woman had been locked up in the room since 1990 because of an unwanted pregnancy and that she was kept in ‘indescribable’ conditions. Italian TV showed the room with a bed with soiled sheets and a dirty toilet and sink, as well as plastic bottles of water and tin bowls. An anonymous tip led police to the house on a country road on the outskirts of the rural town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere. The La Stampa daily said the tip came from a neighbour who complained of the stench rising from the woman's room.

The father of a 16-year-old Mississauga, Ontario, Canada teen killed on December 10, 2007 was charged on June 17, 2008 with first-degree murder in connection with her death. Muhammad Parvez, 57, appeared in a Brampton courtroom where he was officially charged. The charge is an indication investigators believed the girl’s killing was pre-meditated. Parvez was arrested in early December 2007 after his daughter Aqsa, 16, was found strangled in the family's Mississauga home. Paramedics revived her, but she died later in hospital. The death drew international attention after her friends said she had argued with her father over her desire to shun the hijab, a traditional Muslim scarf that covers the head and shoulders. Her brother, Waqas Parvez, 27, was also charged with first degree murder in the death of his sister. He was originally charged with obstructing justice after his sister was killed in their Longhorn Trail home but later the charge was upgraded to one of first degree murder since it was believed by the police that he had a role in the planning of her murder. The penalty in Canada for first degree is an automatic minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

On August 30, 2008, a Pakistani lawmaker, Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, according to his speech before stunned members of Parliament that week. He said, "These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.'' The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first beaten, then shot and finally thrown into a ditch while they were still alive. They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud, according media reports and human rights activists, who said their only ‘crime’ was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing. Zehri told a packed and flabbergasted Parliament that Baluch tribal traditions helped stop obscenity and then asked fellow lawmakers not to make a big fuss about it. The incident occurred in Baba Kot, a remote village in Jafferabad district, after the women decided to defy tribal elders and arrange marriages in a civil court, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission. They were said to have been abducted at gunpoint by six men, forced into a vehicle and taken to a remote field, where they were beaten, shot and then buried alive. Local authorities tried to hush up the killings.

On October 27, 2008, a Pakistani man says his 17-year-old daughter was mauled by dogs and shot to death in front of him over a land dispute disguised as a so-called ‘honour killing.’ The girl's father claims that the tribal council chaired by a local chieftain declared his daughter an adulterer in May to mask the land-grab and the involvement of others.

Amandeep Kaur Dhillon had won the lottery for them all --- or so her Indian family believed as they wed her to an Indo-Canadian man she'd met only three days before. They sang and celebrated as they delivered their frightened-looking daughter to a veritable stranger they knew little about. They hoped that she would save them from their difficult life in the Punjab and one day bring them all to the promised land of Canada as well. But what a deal with the devil it would prove to be. Amandeep was used by both sides in this barbaric bargain, a sacrificial lamb who lived a life of misery in Mississauga --- separated from her child, isolated from the world --- until the 22-year-old was finally found murdered New Year's Day 2009 in what may have been a ‘dowry’ death, with her father-in-law being charged with the crime. On Nov. 11, 2005, she was attired in her beautifully embroidered scarlet wedding suit, a sparkling tikka on her head, multicoloured bangles on each wrist as she was married to Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the suitor her Just over three years later, her battered body was dressed the same way for her funeral. Relatives say that the Dhillon family had gone home to the Punjab to find a husband for their daughter.

They had previously learned there was a good family in the Punjab who could provide a fine match for their son, Gurinder. Amandeep, of course, had no say in the matter. A deal was done despite the fact that dowries have been outlawed in India since 1961. For Amandeep's chance at a better life, her aunt says her parents agreed to pay the groom's family their requested dowry of more than $60,000 and then spent another $12,000 toward the extravagant nuptials they expected, borrowing millions of rupees against their farmlands to scrape together the money. Amandeep and her family were continually pressured to come up with even more money if they expected to be sponsored to Canada. Even after the wedding, Amandeep was told her immigration papers would be filed only if her parents gave them another 100,000 rupees, or $2,500, which they did. Then the groom's family wanted still more money before Amandeep would be ‘allowed’ to sponsor her family here. Amandeep was also prevented from attending her cousin's wedding back home because her parents hadn't come up with more cash. She couldn't go back to India until her family paid $2 million more in rupees. Canada would offer no sanctuary for her. Amandeep's new life here was torture. When she arrived in Canada in 2007 to live with her husband and father-in-law, she was never allowed to leave their house unescorted and when she called home to India, someone would always be listening on the other extension. Amandeep was beaten on at least three occasions.

Conflicts over dowries are such a serious problem in India that the crime of "dowry death" was created in 1986 just to deal with the suspicious deaths of women within the first seven years of their marriage. Newly married brides are often subjected to vicious demands from their husbands and in-laws for additional money or gifts after the wedding and the abuse becomes so intolerable that some women choose suicide while others are eventually murdered for not complying with their new family's demands. According to India's National Crime Bureau, an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 women die annually in dowry deaths. Few of the perpetrators are ever brought to justice, and the grooms' families go on to secure new dowries as the sons marry again.

One of the most worrying aspects of this problem has been that such murders and other dowry-related violence have been on the increase and now occur no longer only in Delhi or somewhere far away in South Asia, but also in London, other British cities and in the urban centres of North America.

I hope that by reading the foregoing, you are as shocked and angered as I was when I first learned of there terrible atrocities.

No comments: