Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pakistani sets Moroccan teenager on fire for refusing to marry him

Henry Samuel:

The family and friends of an 18-year-old girl, doused with petrol and set alight in broad daylight by the man she refused to marry, led a silent march through a Parisian suburb yesterday.

Chahrazad Belayni is currently fighting for her life in intensive care after suffering severe burns on 60 per cent of her body. She is being kept in an artificial coma.

On the morning of Nov 13, the Moroccan teenager was attacked while walking near her home in Neuilly-sur-Marne in the north eastern Seine-Saint-Denis suburb.

She knew her assailant. He was a former workmate of Pakistani origin who was angry about her refusal to marry him. The man and a suspected accomplice are on the run.

"This man asked her to marry him three times. He didn't understand her refusals and wouldn't leave her alone," said Sonia, a classmate. "Chahrazad was a beautiful young girl, very soignée and coquettish. He hurt her more than most by physically damaging her."

Several hundred people marched to the town hall yesterday behind a smiling portrait of Chahrazad and a banner calling for "justice, liberty, respect".

"We are here to denounce this horrible act," said the girl's brother, Abdelaziz, who criticised the lack of public outcry following the attack.

"We are here, not to call for revenge but that justice is done. We are here to denounce all violence against women: women must be able to say No or Yes"

The march was co-organised by Ni Putes ni Soumises (Neither Whores, nor Submissive), an association that tackles growing violence against women, mainly in France's suburbs.

"We are here to tell Chahrazad's parents that they are not alone in this fight. It is not just a family problem. It is a problem for the whole of France," said Fadela Amara, founding president of the organisation.

On Saturday, the group held another silent march in memory of Nadia, allegedly killed by her husband in the south western Parisian suburb of Val d'Oise a year ago. Her body has not been found.

Ni Putes ni Soumises has more than 6,000 members and 60 local committees campaigning against the repression of girls in largely Muslim housing estates, where the choice is either to adhere to strict clothing and behavioural codes or be considered to have loose morals. Yesterday's march was, it said, a "tribute to all the victims of machismo".

Ms Amara said the organisation was overwhelmed by calls for help from women suffering from violence or forced marriages, and asked the government to give more concrete help, notably through campaigns in schools.

The French minister for social cohesion and sexual equality, Catherine Vautrin, described the attack on Chahrazad as a "horrible illustration" of male violence against women, which claimed the lives of 163 women in France in 2003 and 2004.

Silent march follows fire attack on teenager

Samira Bellil

Sohanne Benziane

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