Gul Meena is a 17-year-old girl from Pakistan who shouldn't be alive.
At the age of 12, instead of continuing her education, her family arranged her marriage to a 60-year-old man. He beat her every day, and when she told her family, they beat her, too. The single message she received was, "you belong in your husband's house — that is your life." After 5 years of such torture, Meena met an Afghan man who promised to take her away to safety, and though she knew that running away with another man was punishable by death, she accepted the risk in hopes of a better life.
Less than a week later, Meena and her friend had a surprise visitor: her older brother. To him, this was not just a matter of his sister leaving her husband, but an insult to the family honor – and to himself. He killed Meena's friend and then hacked his sister with an axe 15 times in her face, head, and body. Leaving her for dead, he returned to Pakistan, where he has never been apprehended.
Upon Meena's arrival at the local hospital, the surgeons were not hopeful. Parts of Meena's brain were literally hanging out of her skull, and they feared she had lost too much blood. But against all odds, Meena survived.
Meena's story should be shocking and outrageous, but it's not. In fact, it's commonplace. Such "honor killings" are horrific, yet they happen almost every day and receive little to no attention or aid. That is a tragedy of the highest order.
But another tragedy is happening here, too: Look at the comments section of this YouTube video on Meena and you'll see what this story is turning into. Instead of being about a young girl who has somehow survived a lifetime of abuse, violence, and oppression, and instead of being about how to help the millions of women in Meena's situation, her story is being used as yet another attack on Islam.
This is not about Islam.
True, Meena was Muslim, but this honor killing stemmed from cultural norms – norms that span the globe. Look to Pakistan's neighbor India, and you'll see Hindu villages committing the exact same violence in the name of honor. Look to Israel, and you can read a Jewish rabbi's strict instruction manual for appropriate female dress code, starting at the age of 3. Look to America, and you'll find Christian churches forcing rape victims to publicly "apologize" for the "sin" of getting pregnant from their rape.
Meena's story is one of gendered violence and oppression that is heard around the world. Her voice has been stifled for long enough – stop twisting her story to suit your agenda.
Let her speak.