The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan has occupied my thoughts since it first hit the news. Mostly, it makes me sad.
Twenty years ago, I would have been overwhelmed by a righteous feminist anger that anyone dared to try to keep women down, especially by such extreme measures. While that still rings in my head, it is tempered by the reports of the last several years showing that male candidates and officials across the region have been routinely killed by bombs and assassins. No feminist agenda there. Only people with a faulty moral compass.
I’m sure they will debate for some time to come to whom the real fault belongs. The shooters themselves, of course, but their funders, perhaps the government of Pakistan itself, perhaps the terrorist organizations, perhaps the U.S. government that supported her and that support alone making her a target? Bhutto herself for entering what she knew was the line of fire?
While Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, fighting an uphill battle to take that place for a third time, Muslim feminist Irshad Manji says that Pakistani women do not call her ‘brave.’ Bhutto did little to change the state of women during her previous tenures, for example, her failure to remove the anti-female rape and adultery laws, and so missed her chance to truly take advantage of her office. http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/12/29/pakistan.commentary/index.html
I would disagree. In looking at Bhutto’s return to Pakistan in the fall of 2007, almost immediately marred by a tragic assassination attempt, and her persistence in the face of almost certain violence to appear in public and bring her agenda to a people hungry to hear it, I believe she showed bravery. She didn’t have to return. She could have remained in exile, where she’d been for nearly a decade. As the character of Peron points out in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita,
All exiles are distinguished, more important, they’re not dead…
So it’s a lesson to be learned, perhaps, and a moment to look at myself and wonder if I believe anything so strongly that I would take such a risk to prove it.