Saturday, September 13, 2008

This is what RPK had been raving about...

Speak up, Maslinda tells victimised women
Sep 14, 2008
New Straits Times

PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA - Maslinda Ishak, the nightclub employee who was told to relieve herself inside a Rela truck five years ago, still has nightmares about that humiliation. Maslinda, 31, who was rounded up with others during a religious department raid, had asked permission to use a toilet.

But Rela volunteer Mohamad Tahir Osman told her to urinate inside the truck.

On Thursday, the court ordered Tahir to pay RM100,000 in damages to Maslinda for taking pictures of her private moment inside the truck.

Tahir was sentenced to four months' jail in April 2003 by the magistrate's court for outraging her modesty.

Her husband, who only wanted to be known as Aiman, described how Maslinda had cried all day and night upon hearing the court's verdict against the former Rela member, who put her through her life's worst nightmare.

Maslinda was not in court when the judge read out the verdict.

In fact, she had kept away from the hearings, except for the times which she had to testify. It was Aiman who would attend every time.

During an interview on Friday, the rather embarrassed Maslinda started off by talking about her nightmares on the incident.

"When I was squatting and relieving myself in the truck, someone else yanked the scarf that my friends held around me while he (Tahir) laughed and began clicking away (tergelak-gelak).

"I could tell he enjoyed taking the shots. Then I heard my friends say 'Shield your face, shield your face' and I did so. I was in a state of shock."

Maslinda said that the Rela and Jawi team went on to raid two other clubs.

By the end of the three stops in the wee hours of the morning, the truck was full of people.

"We were sandwiched together with the men.

"Then, when they took us to the Jawi office, they separated the men and the women.

"What was the point in that? I did not understand anything that was happening then."

Aiman was there almost immediately and managed to take Maslinda home.

Once inside the car, she told him about the incident and Aiman became furious.

"He is still very angry after all these years about what happened to me. You see, we were newly-weds at that time," she said.

Not only that, Maslinda had to deal with her worried parents, four sisters and brother when the news broke.

"Everyone just cried and cried. They were so upset. But my mum reassured me and told me that they would back me all the way, whatever action I decided to take."

Maslinda felt particularly hurt when some of her parents' neighbours in Negri Sembilan gave them the cold shoulder after the incident became a news topic for months after that.

"My mum fought with some of them. But through it all, she encouraged me to soldier on.

"My family and Aiman have been my greatest support. The women from Sisters in Islam and Women's Aid Organisation were also pillars of strength for me.

"They would come in full force, nearly 30 of them, whenever I had to go to the syariah court, which was eight times.

"I was never charged with anything."

Aiman said that there were times when Maslinda wanted to give up the fight, especially when the court upheld the decision that four months' jail was sufficient for the offender.

Maslinda never returned to work at the club. She stayed home for nearly two years, all the time hating the publicity she was getting.

"People who never spoke to me published stories about me in the papers and magazines.

"I was very embarrassed," she said, politely declining requests to be photographed.

To Maslinda, her short working stint at the club was just a job she took after working in a factory for five years.

"It wasn't a career decision or anything. It was just a job at that time."

Maslinda's life was slowly returning to normal until last Thursday.

"After all our struggles, this is the verdict. It is so unfair," she said.

While Maslinda and Aiman mull about what next to do, she is clear about one thing.

When something like this happens, the victim must speak up.

"My message to women out there is not to be afraid, especially when you know you are not in the wrong.

"Many similar cases go unreported. That will not solve the problem."

In some ways, Maslinda thinks she is ready to move on to the next step of starting a family, a decision that was delayed because of the incident.

But Aiman is concerned that they are not financially ready.

"A lot of our financial resources have been drained because of this case.

"I'm not sure what we are going to do now, but we are not giving up," said a determined Aiman.

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