Cyber love, Skype affairs and affection that kills

Published: December 30, 2013

We need to remember that it is not ‘fun’ to play with someone's life.

“Hi, would you like to become friends with me?”

“Well, you are a stranger and I am not allowed to talk to strangers.

“If we talk, we can get to know each other, then we won’t be strangers anymore.”

And that is how it all begins… just some ‘harmless fun’.

Stories of rape, blackmail and abuse have become quite frequent of late. These tales are not limited to any particular class or strata of our patriarchal society.

To quote just one personal incident, my maid’s daughter, a girl who was hardly 17-years-old at the time, eloped with a relative’s acquaintance and was recovered from another city. The family of the girl, devastated beyond measure, brought her home where she was tortured by her father and not allowed to leave the premises of the house.

Unfortunately, the saga of dishonour is far from over for the family. Her pictures and private videos had already been circulated among friends and relatives, making the girl a ‘curse’ for her family.

Eventually, her father gave in to the mockery and humiliation, took an iron rod to her head and killed the girl.

It doesn’t take more than the cheapest of mobile phones to make such a video — all phones now provide this facility. The boy who took the video did not need social media networks to ‘bring shame’ to the family and take his revenge. All he did was transfer the video from one mobile to another via Bluetooth and messaging.

Destroying a life is just that easy now.

This type of blackmail has become fairly common in Pakistan and it can often spiral out of control.

The wife of a close friend of mine hung herself after being blackmailed online. At first, I was numb and dumbfounded — how could you be blackmailed online? The suicide note read:

“I am afraid but I think its goodbye forever. I love you. I’m sorry because I’m not the perfect wife, but I tried. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I love you so much… Soon it will all be over.”

Although her videos or photos were not uploaded to any social media site, it was later revealed that she was having a Skype affair.

Allegedly the affair had become extremely intimate and was captured in the form of screenshots by the guy. She was pressurised by the person for a meeting face to face, which she disagreed to. In the face of continuous blackmail she hanged herself.

I could go on citing more cases, but really, suicide, violence and killing in the name of honour, is nothing new. We are all aware of it, and our families and those close to us all have their own stories.

Today, the main cause in the increase of these killings is technology, and increased levels of exposure. More of these stories make it to the limelight today than they did in the past. Many more women are trapped, unaware of the rules (or lack of rules) that govern mobile phones, SMS, social media and Skype.

I personally think that the problem lies with a woman’s unfortunate ignorance of technology, a man’s lack of control in a society that lets him get away with anything, and a lack of sensitivity and responsibility on part of the media, who irresponsibly cover such cases.

Bear in mind, not all men are characterless and shallow, and not all women are gullible and ignorant. But what neither suspect is the consequences such ‘harmless fun’ might lead to. They don’t suspect anything until one of them gets hurt, and in most cases, it is the woman who gets hurt.

In a culture where men divide women on two grounds, those who exist for their fun and pleasure (the one you do not introduce to your family) and those who are ‘marriage material’ (the one you take home), it is the duty of women to be more cautious and responsible for themselves, but confining women to a particular room is not the solution to the dilemma.

The best way to solve this issue lies in creating awareness for men and educating women about the issues that plague society, particularly how new technology and new media can have negative, harmful consequences. With much too much time and bundles of technological toys available at hand, young people get easily caught up in this virtual trap.

Education stressing on the consequences of certain acts along with knowledge on how to be sensible and control affections is the need of the hour. In the face of such incidents, parents, teachers and society in general should start teaching children at a very young age to make sure they are more alert and conscious of their bodies and relationships with the opposite sex. Young boys should be taught to respect their sisters and female acquaintances while young girls should be taught to be more vigilant.

We need to remember that it is not ‘fun’ to play with someone’s life – be it a man or a woman  – whether it is in person or by means of technology.

Tazeen Inam

Tazeen Inam

She worked at Aaj TV till 2008, freelances currently for Express Tribune and Dawn and is associated with a television commercial production company.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Taimoor

    I think it boils down to what values were instilled in you when you were growing up. The parents these days have a greater responsibility of keeping their children safe and educating them about the evils in this society.

    And thank you for raising this issue.Recommend

  • anonymous

    The affects of illiteracy and of living in a non progressive society at it’s finest. As long as we don’t get rid of our stone age mindset and male dominated culture, there can not be any change. Schools must play their part in transforming children into aware and sensible adults and co-ed schools and colleges must become a norm. But alas, that could happen only if there were schools, and it is a known fact that the number of ghost schools in our country goes well into the tens of thousands. Sad to see all of this.Recommend

  • Haseeb Zahid

    I know this is very shallow act on the man’s part, but why would a respectable woman, ever, ‘have fun’ like that?Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    The ultimate rule of the thumb is that we should stay ‘connected’ to our people if we care enough . for example – A husband’s duty is to stay connected with his wife .The idea is not to snoop behind her back or follow her every move but like in the case of your friend’s wife , very obviously he was not ‘ connected’ to her . She didn’t tell him her problems . He didn’t instill enough confidence in her after so many years. Else she would have told him the whole story instead of finding the cowardly way out by committing suicide. Perhaps he is the caring , forgiving type but she didn’t know it unfortunately. Its his fault that she didn’t see that soft side of his nature .Recommend

  • aHmaD

    Nice article miss. These stories just send a shiver down my spine every time I read em. God help us all.Recommend

  • Saad

    More strict laws should be brought into practice specially related to cyber crime and harmful use of technology.Recommend

  • Axad Chaudary

    excellent !Recommend

  • Kay Jay

    I can’t help it. I have to talk. You can’t help who you fall in love with etc etc are some of the things, fed into our minds that we tend to forget that Humans were created with a thing called Self-restraint. I am keeping the topic of Cyber love and affair aside, even the fact that who is responsible doesn’t matter. What matters is Why do we let ourselves be enslaved by anything or anyone,per se. Cyber love, texting all this, for me is a sense of fake connection. It enslaves you, makes you addictive, You can’t breathe without it, or any form of addiction. do you think Love ought to be like that?
    Nothing happens to us just like that. We do it to ourselves. Liberate your self. Your life is too precious, and too small.Recommend

  • rida

    blog was really worth read!!! Tazeen u wrote it very well and thank u for playing ur part in creating a positive difference in society…God bless u !!Recommend

  • rasgullah

    How can this happen in Pakistan where all men and women are pious. Seems to be a foriegn conspiracy. Recommend

  • Cyyed Zaa’Daa

    Curse of misuse of techonology was spotted while reading the whole story, the need of time is actually to make awareness among the youngsters or better say immature minds, either young girl or a boy!
    Awareness for Guys to behave ethically and for Girls to behave legitly!Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    These type of things are never good. Please do not have affairs. It is a
    totally bad thing to do. And never share intimate pictures with random
    people on the Internet. That is not very intelligent. Her father should
    also be booked with murder. Even if she brought so called “shame” on
    him, that did NOT give him the right to kill her. And they should make a
    law, where even if somebody does share intimate photos with you, you
    cannot share them.Recommend

  • মোঃ ইবাদ উল্লাহ্

    Very well written mashaallah (y)Recommend

  • Saad

    Gossiping amongst friends/families is the biggest threat to someone’s emotions. Think about how many lives would have been saved if people would just keep and dissolve the ‘hot talk’ under their roof.Recommend

  • turab ali

    i agree with some parts but its not like what its seems mostly people knows the consequences til then they make such connections this thing show how desperate ow society isRecommend

  • Nauman Ul Haq

    This has got nothing to with living in a non progressive society. Blackmail over internet is pretty much prevalent in so called “progressive” societies aswell.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Some ‘bold’ and ‘modern’ women do that. I myself know a few of my friends who were so irresponsible.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    An eye-opener for teenaged girls like me.Recommend

  • Sonia K

    I believe Ms. Tazeen put it too lightly when she said ‘educate men’….
    They need more than just education…. they need role models, educators, mentors and a distance from the filmy material.
    Ms. Tazeen hits it home when she says ‘men divide women in 2 categories’….
    helllloooooo….. there are colleagues and friends who would neither want to have fun with men or be their wives so whats the 3rd, 4th and 5th category. Unfortunately 80% men don’t have ANY OTHER category….. they are deluded…. the only other category is ‘if you are open-minded, you should be able to take in any kind of statement’…..
    This category unfortunately encompasses the bold women, the outgoing types, working class and unfortunately any woman who can have an affair!
    Will they listen to anything? YES. Will they respond to anything? YES. Does that make them gullible. YESS. Unfortunately the psychological impact of the category is such that women fall prey to obscenity. And those who dont…. as per men…. they dont have the nerve…. :)Recommend

  • raees

    We all are responsible for it. If we allow our children to drive, create mail address and give them access to face-book despite knowing they are underage, we must be ready for consequences. Mobile is same kind of curse for them. Do they really need it?Recommend

  • Doctor Sahab

    In Pakistan, fornication is 1000 times easier and cheaper than legal marriage, and I would blame our culture, traditions and society for it. In Pak, if you love someone then you’r supposed to take the permission of not just ur parents but your whole family even those members whom u might have not seen in ur life, n in the end ur love would be rejected because of status, money, dowry or with statements like “Laug kia kahein ge”.
    This gives both men n women to go for the easiest way out n that is to go-out, hang-out n make-out without Nikah. I just dont understand that why is the ex-generation so crazy. Can someone tell them that its the era of technology, n one can have any kind of love n sex on sms, calls, webcam chats etc. These days both the genders get to know about each n every bit of physical interactions that can exist between a man & a woman even before they reach their puberty. But still they are making this lot to wait for around 30 yrs of age or until they get a decent job. Till then they do & try all the evils in their life because the more you abstain someone from something, the more they are inclined towards it.
    I have been studying the sexual behavior of men and women in Pakistan in an informal way. Trust me, I was shocked to know that the rate of fornication, watching pornographic content and masturbation is equal in both men and women. In some odd cases, these statistics were way too high for women, which made me hell disturbed.
    To hell with our society, traditions, culture and families bc they all push us to fornication than Nikah. Please get united to raise this concern of letting our sons and daughters get married on time, rather than push them towards sins or else we would have hundreds of such examples in front of us.Recommend

  • Guest

    Being ‘bold’ and ‘modern’ shouldn’t mean you go and put your dignity and self-respect in someone’s hand to play with.Recommend

  • Tahir Mahmood Kamboh

    The increase of vulgarity via showbiz media, internet etc etc is also playing a big part in all this.
    Besides educating young boys and girls, parents should also try their best to let their children marry as soon as they become adult.Recommend

  • Ali Raza

    Technology should not be blamed in anyway – as it’s purpose is to make lives easier, however its in hands of the consumer who opts to use it in a negative manner, cases like these have a pattern – they usually occur in houses where moral degradation, lack of love and lack of knowledge is common. The new generation knows all the tricks to secretly use technology without letting their illiterate / unaware parents know what they are up to. A wife / husband can get side tracked when lack of understanding and love create communication gaps.Recommend

  • Wasim Khan

    Indeed it is a foreign conspiracy. What else do they want?. To deteriorate the cultural and Islamic norms of this country and lo.. They are succeeding.Recommend

  • Wasim Khan

    Exactly sir what you are saying! I can quote Ahadith of Prophet s.a.w.w where he said like that!Recommend

  • daud

    well-written and worth-reading article, it is said “man is a social animal” but in our society this sociality become a nightmare most of time. Everyone has freedom and right to be a “social animal” but everyone must keep in mind the self-respect and dignity in their own’ hands, hence first make yourself ready to face the consequences of social media .Recommend

  • Syed Owais Mukhtar

    Well, the solution of this problem is simple, we must give all “freedom” to openly meet with each other.Recommend

  • Hala Syed

    blackmail of this type wouldn’t even be successful if people’s idea of shame and honor was not tied to “their” women. you might never be able to eliminate this kind of cyber crime but you can eliminate the stigma attached with being the victim. stop victim blaming and these kind of monsters will lose their powerRecommend

  • Rafay

    There must be some grave punishment for the guys who blackmail women without lime lighting the girl to save her family’s pride otherwise this series of honor killings will never stop. Blackmailing is a criminal offence.Recommend

  • Gullabo

    Jo baat hai Haseeb mian.Recommend

  • Hira Wasif

    I sincerely hope you’re being sarcastic..Recommend

  • anon

    Actually they dont know the consequences. Thats the problem she is trying to discuss. People dont realise these days that screenshots can be saved later for blackmail. Sometimes people get into these situations because they are vulnerable and taken advantage of which is more greater awareness is neededRecommend

  • anon

    Exactly I have seen destructive levels of social gossiping both online on twitter/facebook and in reality of parties/phone conversations/gts. People especially dont realise how destructive and damaging these harmless chats can be, whats worse is these habits get picked up by younger kids and get passed down. I have observed shocked levels of pettiness in extremely young kids which means its been picked up from parents. Then we wonder why this society has saas-bahu conflicts, liberal v religious violence . people need to just shutup, judge less, reflect more and get on with more productive things in life.Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    Great write-up. Very pertinent issue!Recommend

  • anon

    Go read some newspapers in the West before judging our society. You will see the increasing number of young girls in the West committing suicide because of blackmail on social media and harassment over affairs despite studying in co-ed schools. This has nothing to do with stone age mindset or progressiveness. people of all sects and religions and creed have forgotten manners/etiquettes and peaceful co-existence. I think Islam and every other religion will teach you the basic premise that if you do something bad to someone else, there is a greater wrath awaiting you both in this world and the after. I wonder what goes on in the minds of the people who blackmail, i truly feel sorry for them because they have no idea the punishment that awaits them for destroying the physical, emotional and mental life of another of God’s creation just for a few moments pleasure. If backbiting is considered one of the biggest sins in Islam, then one can only imaging the fate of those who blackmail.Recommend

  • Usman

    The online social media represents a very different culture as compared to Pakistan. The online systems represents the norms of western cultures where it is socially acceptable for people to meet, date and plan their future lives and select their partners. A similar level of unchecked and open interaction is not yet socially acceptable in Pakistan. Hence social media issues is mostly a rift between the cultures that leads to heartaches and violence due to unmet expectations. I think through research is needed by social scientists to help transform these systems to our society.Recommend

  • Usman

    It is not trivial to change societies. A better alternative is to mold these social media systems to represents the culture of our society at large. A social media network that is ‘made in Pakistan’ would have same issues with western cultures, technology is not as global as we think it is.Recommend

  • adnan

    man has an animal instinct…. and the early female realises this the better.. west females are still stuck with this dilemma than man and woman have similar feelings towards each other.. there is a reason why men can be attached happily with many females if they are given teh choice while females will not choose this option….Recommend

  • me

    scarfy love = confused societyRecommend

  • Lara

    Very relevant article, well-written. I want to add that young girls are exploited in every decade, in every culture, but this problem has become bigger in our society because, firstly the men are seldom held accountable for their actions, and secondly, young people are using the internet without any adult supervision. Parents have no clue what their children are exposed to. Stay safe. Be responsible. Be aware.Recommend

  • ptr

    “I personally think that the problem lies with a woman’s unfortunate ignorance of technology,a man’s lack of control in a society that lets him get away with anything”

    WOMEN are also responsible for getting intimate on cams, so don’t say that men have lack of control. If a married woman is getting intimate online with her webcam on, she is out of control too. You can’t be forced to show your privates online, at least for the first time. SO don’t give one sided dumb logic.Recommend

  • ptr

    of course, it is always the mistake of “he.”Recommend

  • ptr

    It takes two hands to clap, why don’t you guys understand that both sexes are responsible for these incidents. Specially females which first go out with such a**holes and when something bad happens, they say men are pigs. Try to own your responsibility. A married women committed suicide, for God sake how mature you need to be, to safeguard you dignity, by not getting intimate with a stranger online !!!!Recommend

  • ptr

    yeah, blame vulnerability for getting intimate’Recommend

  • ptr

    seriously this has absolutely nothing to do with the issue we are discussing here. Blackmailing is not invented in our country. It is actually adopted from so called Progressive Nations.Recommend

  • ptr

    If an “Innocent” female is stripping over the internet for some intimate partner, how the hell in this world the whole responsibility goes to the man???Recommend

  • Hassaan

    Excellent topic and very well elaborated. Highly appreciative.Recommend

  • Alikulikhan

    Absolutely correct. Why does the honor of the family rest only on the shoulders of its women.Recommend

  • anon

    Because doing so has reduced blackmail in open societies? There may not be honor killings in the West but there are high number of suicide among girls, because of harassment and blackmail due to affairs. The problem more to do with the culture of blackmail that becomes easy due to social media use.Recommend

  • minerva

    how connected would she be when she was having a skype affair?obviously she ignored and lonely…i believe the punishment for this kind of blackmailing should be capital if they need to stop some.Recommend

  • Mahfooz Ahmad

    the following happens when girls do stupid things in first place, no human being is insane to start thinking like that. if girls can fix themselves first all the evils of society will vanish.

    In a culture where men divide women on two grounds, those who exist
    for their fun and pleasure (the one you do not introduce to your family)
    and those who are ‘marriage material’ (the one you take home), it is
    the duty of women to be more cautious and responsible for themselves,
    but confining women to a particular room is not the solution to the

  • FNasir

    If we would study Islam, and in true sense follow the Quran and Sunnah, our society would have no problems.
    We seem to have people who have literally made the deen a joke, and their followers are fanatics and cannot be called Muslims.
    And on the other hand we have people who fee that religion is not for this time, or it does not suit us, or we are too advanced for this.
    We claim to be a Muslim society, but if we just took a few minutes to look around us with open eyes and an open heart, we will understand that we are not on the deen. And also that all the problems plaguing our society are because of being away from Allah (SWT)’s, His book,and His messenger’s true authentic teaching.
    May He guide us all, Aameen.Recommend

  • Hala Syed

    why is “saving the family’s pride” more important than punishing the culprit? when we can answer this question we will be able to solve this problemRecommend

  • ₹Endi₹

    Lovely piece, Taneen. Save the honour killing, Nigerians can relate with these instances.Recommend

  • Sohail Raza

    Its sohail raza.. There is a law abt this nd a woman can claim to get a guy arrested nd punished if a guy has taken her naked pix nd is blacmailing her over them bt bcoz of the type of society rules we hav, she choses the miserable way. But i must say that they r worst type of men who do this. I hav also been in relationship wid grlz nd many of them hav shared some pix wid me out of emotions which they never wished any1 else to see xcept me nd i valued their wish nd never thought of doing this shamefuk thing discusses here. We just need to educate ppl abt this issue that how to protect their data rights nd specially parents whom she needs most as helper if ever caught in such situation. Besides that we need to introduce more strict laws abt this nd make em applicable a bit strongly. May Allah protect our loved ones nd evry1 else frm such problems nd save us frm doing such sins..Recommend

  • WTH

    People like you are the ones women end up committing suicide when they make a mistake. Yes women are to be careful but how about you lecture men to be keep a more open mind because even God has cautioned man to be more gentle and kind against a woman because of her fragility.Recommend

  • Common Man

    because he chooses to flaunt it for personal gain, you idiot.Recommend

  • intizam

    I think the great responsibility llies on the parents of girlsand boys. As soon as they are grown enough to be married parents shoul make their marriages. Delaying the marriages is one of the key reasons for this problemRecommend

  • Nobody

    If said man leaks that video than yes he’s 100% responsible. And you missed the point Hala was trying to make. It is not about laying blame on only men, but rather removing blame from only women by detaching this nuisance of a word: honor from the shoulders of women alone. Honor has become an excuse to judge, beat, violate and murder women. Recommend

  • Nobody

    Do you know how many MEN are also getting intimate on cameras? Those women are not getting intimate with themselves; they are doing so with another person on the other end, often a man. How often do WOMEN take the video and leak it? You weak attempt at placing blame on the shoulders of women is true to form given the next to doggy doo doo status of women on the subcontinent.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Yes, after all it’s women who are raping, torturing, beating, kidnapping and extorting other women threatening to leak their privacy online. It’s pathetic. Men like you will always find a way to blame women, absolving men of all responsibility. Men are equally, if not MORE to blame. A man is not a man without a grasp on self accountability and responsibility over his own actions.Recommend

  • Nobody

    If a man leaks said video, then yes, he is 100% responsible. Furthermore, I think you misunderstood Hala’s point; it is not about laying all blame on the shoulders of men; it’s more about detaching this ridiculous nuisance of a word: honor, from the shoulders of women alone. Honor is now an excuse to beat, violate, punish and kill women. People need to detach the word HONOR from everyone’s behavior and also understand that women are also humans and have the same desires as men, and like men, will also make mistakes.Recommend

  • Nobody

    I don’t understand why people in Eastern cultures, especially men, are so shocked when they find out women have the same desire for sex as men. Newsflash, women also desire and enjoy sex. We are human after all. That being said, I choose not to voice my own opinion in response to what you said regarding early marriage and what not. You are entitled to your opinion as we all are.

  • Nobody

    I’m tired of men putting women on some magical infallible pedestal. We are HUMAN. We have the same desires and needs as men and we are as likely to make mistakes, OR willingly take part in things that we call FUN.Recommend

  • gp65

    Well said. The father killing his daughter With a rod is described almost as matter of fact and the culprit is described as technology. The fact is, if the father loved his daughter more than his image among random strangers, he would have stood up for her and guided her – even if she had acted in ways that he did not approve.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Hala did not lame the man but rather the prevailing values where the woman’s private choices serve to. Become a source of shame for all around her and killing her by the people who shoulld protect her is not considered shameful and dishonorable.Recommend

  • gp65

    When people meet and date openly there is no basis for blackmail. Each society has its own source of stress which could lead to suicide but certainly suicide to save family honor is not common in those societies where people can interact openly.Recommend

  • rasgullah

    What culture are you talking about? Indian or Arabic?Recommend

  • Guest

    Yes I agree, looks like American sazish. WE are truly an innocent nation which does not fall in love, have zero sexual desires, and can never go wrong. Every single crime and social offence is due to America, Zionish Conspiracy or unknown elements. By default we will all end up in Heaven.
    Welcome to Pakistan!!Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    well , I totally agree with the punishment but then who will go and complain against such type of blackmailing in the first instance. BTW With due respects to her and her spouse , its not only the lonely types who have ‘affairs’ . Some just walk into a light ‘fling’ – not totally innocently.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Well its not totally her spouse’s fault. Its equally her fault too . Anything happens to me happens only because of me . She is educated enough to ‘talk ‘ on Skype . She should have known where to draw the line.Recommend

  • Haseeb Zahid

    Well the men you want to be equal to, are also not very respectable to be having that sort of fun. :)Recommend

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  • broken chooza

    ‘We are human after all.’ LOL ! then lets have some… whats your skype ID ..Recommend

  • Syed Owais Mukhtar

    Hey, It was a sarcasm. I hope you understand,Recommend

  • Mahfooz Ahmad

    i m not blaming women only. both are equally responsible for this after they get involved. what i am saying here is that if girls can stop wearing stupid dresses to allure people out there boys will eventually stop following them. haya is one important part of Iman for both women and men. there is a difference between girls who do niqab and those who don’t. similarly there is a difference between men who have haya and don’t watch girls and those who do watch them by all means regardless what they wear. peace!Recommend

  • Dante

    You sounded pretty stupid, but were smart enough to stop after two sentences only.Recommend

  • Shariq